Just over 6 weeks ago, I officially became a dad. I say officially, because my wife and I were parents to two that never made it out of the womb when she miscarried fairly early on in those pregnancies.
A couple of weeks after Amelia's arrival, I was chatting to a colleague who has two toddlers and he asked me what I thought at the time was an odd question. He asked me what I had felt as I had watched them pull Amelia out of Carmen and saw her for the first time. And I hesitated. Before I could answer, he dropped his voice and leaned towards me, 'you know what I felt when my first was born?' I shook my head. 'Nothing.' He continued: 'I always wondered if there was something wrong with me, but Rodney, honestly, it took me 2 weeks to connect with my baby and then it was like I had been hit by an avalanche.'
I nodded. Throughout the pregnancy, I had talked to 'the bump' and then Amelia as we named her when we had found out she was a girl. I had rubbed Carmen's tummy and felt her kicking and tumbling around inside. She had become a very real part of our lives - even though we couldn't see her yet, we had fallen in love with her. Then, when she was born, all the feelings I had been told I would experience never happened immediately. In my case, it wasn't 2 weeks, it was 2 days. Yes I thought she was cute and adorable and all that, but it was only when Carmen had to return to hospital for a slight hiccup 2 days later and I followed alone with just Amelia in the car baby seat behind me, that it hit me like a ton of bricks: If anything had to happen to her now... The fierce protectiveness I felt over her was almost overwhelming: like I would happily take pleasure in maiming anybody if they tried to harm her. The combination of love I felt for her and what I can only describe as blinding hate (albeit in the abstract) for any that would seek to hurt her was at once exhilarating and frightening. And I realised that I could not (and please God will not) ever know what it is to lose your child.
4 years ago, my sister and our family had my niece Kirstin torn from us (she was 18) and when she died, I can reflect that I went through a period of numbness that gradually subsided. I seem to think that there are parallels here. With regards to the Christian belief in eternal life, all of a sudden the idle question becomes a real question: In reflecting on the death of his wife, CS Lewis wrote that 'You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you. It is easy to say you believe a rope to be strong and sound as long as you are merely using it to cord a box. But suppose you had to hang by that rope over a precipice.' When Kirstin died, we had to learn to relate to her in the context of her absence and her presence much like I had to do with Amelia when she left the womb and I could no longer find her there. It is not for nothing that we speak of being 'born' into eternal life. And I take comfort that the disciples had to learn the same thing: Jesus told Mary outside His tomb: 'Do not cling to me for I have not yet ascended...'(Jn 20:17) because now she and the disciples would have to learn to relate to Him in a new way because once He had ascended, He would be present - and absent in a new way. And so we do not cling to the memory of Kirstin, but through faith, learn to relate to her and her new absence and presence, believing in the communion of saints and realising that through the cross, which her loss was and is for us, we are united to the salvific work of Christ's Cross, in whose presence she now lives and moves and has her being, beckoning to us as we make our awkward way towards her - and Him. Rest in Peace dearest Kirst. You are still so very dearly, deeply missed.