For all the world it was an idyllic scene. The mother, in a rocking chair, slowly rocking her 9 month old baby. Cooing to him and singing him lullabies, surrounded by the trappings of the post-Christmas season; Christmas PJ’s, ‘cuddlies’ and toys.
And I sat on the floor, invited there by Parents (as I have been invited to share their story) and marvelled at the scene of the unspeakable love and bond between mother and child.
But, I’m afraid, this was no ordinary room. It was a room in a hospice, and this little baby was severely ill. I had seen him in another place a number of times and, at the parent’s request, had come to see him here as well. I’d been asked to pray for him because now he was close to the end of his life.
As I sat there, it was almost as if I was looking down on this scene from above, and it dawned on me that it was a huge privilege to be invited into this room by the family. To share, in some small measure, something of the journey of this family is an honour that I won’t take for granted. But then I guess that is “chaplaincy” – the invitation into people’s lives in times of crisis.
Then Mom said: “Do you want a cuddle with him?” So it was my turn to sit in the rocking chair, and in amidst all the wires and tubes, to have him stare into my eyes and me look back – wishing things could be different.
We prayed for this little one, and cried, and hugged. And afterwards, in the comfort of my own home that evening, they phoned to say that the baby had passed away.
I don’t know why these things happen. I have no fancy words or explanations. All I know is that being in that place, alongside this family, was where I belonged for a time. Mom and Dad have asked me to take his funeral; and together with them I will do my best to lay him to rest and to honour his contribution to the world. He was loved and, I believe, gave love in return. And now, the rocking chair has stopped rocking; but the picture of love that I saw in that place between mum and baby will stay with me forever.