Tag Archives: Family

Hope in the Face of Adversity: A Christmas Baby

Baby SOPHIA with Mum Alice and Dad Ben (used with permission)

Baby SOPHIA with Mum Alice and Dad Ben (used with permission)

In May I will have been at Worcestershire Royal Hospital as Chaplain for 5 years.

And so every now and then I bump into people who I have met in other circumstances- none more so that this story.

I was minding my own business chatting to a Volunteer in the Main Entrance of the Royal when I noticed a dishevelled man out of the corner of my eye. You kind of get a second sense when you think someone wants to speak with you, and so I asked him if he was OK. His name was Ben, he looked knackered, and he told me why. “My wife Alice is expecting a baby and I have been awake for 36 hours straight.” He said his wife was called Alice, and I wished him good luck and went on my way.

Later that day I was about to go home and I saw him again. This time he still looked knackered but with a dazed air about him; almost floating through the entrance of the hospital (on his way out to have a fag). “How’s it going I asked?” “O Great, she’s had, I ,mean we’ve had, a baby girl.” “Congratulations! Have a cigar!” I said (more a turn of phrase than an anti-health promotion message.”

He told me that their baby was called SOPHIA, and that his partner was called Alice. More than that “Alice would like to see you after what happened before.”

O dear, now the penny dropped. I obviously had some connection to this woman; (not her partner- he was new to me); and so I was wracking my brains.

I went down to post-natal, and when I found ALICE the memories immediately flooded back. Three and a half years ago I had taken the funeral of her son after a pregnancy loss. I remember Alice in particular; vulnerable and still and reserved but full of grief. And I remembered the service, and the blessing I gave to her little boy: “May the Lord bless you…”

And now here she was, and in her arms was a beautiful baby girl. And as Alice saw me her face crinkled into gratitude and relief. “Oh. I’m so glad you’ve come; you’ve really made this time special.”

I was speechless. I’d only just shown my face (and that’s enough to put most people off). I am aware that so often I’m involved in some of the saddest times in peoples lives, and, understandably, they don’t want that bringing back to them by memories evoked by my presence.

But not Alice.

So she passed baby Sophia to me and for a few moments I stood there rocking her and admiring this new life who had emerged into the world. She was beautiful, and fragile, and it felt like I was treading on “Holy Ground”.

And after a moment Alice asked: “Would you say a blessing for Sophia?”

And so, in the same words which were echoed three and a half years ago for her brother for whom time was so short, I prayed for Sophia:

“Sophia, may the Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make his face shine upon you. The Lord turn his face towards you and give you his peace.”

And now, one final, bold request. “Can I have a photo and share it on my Blog? No worries if not!” “Corse you can Dave. You’ve done so much for you. We’ll never forget what you’ve done for your Son. We owe you such a lot!”

So glad to be there.
So glad to have, for a short while at least, become interweaved with the story of Alice and Ben and Sophia.
So glad to have witnessed a new life start her journey in the world.

Believe me I know that not all stories have happy endings.
I know that many will, this Christmas, face grief which seems insurmountable.
But for now I pass on a story that speaks of HOPE.

And say that, for me at least, my thoughts and prayers will continue to be with this little ball of ‘WISDOM’.

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TOMMY’S BUBBLES: So Perfect…So Fragile. Reflections on a neonatal death

So pefect...so fragile

So pefect…so fragile

Tommy was a beautiful baby; I’ve seen the photos! But after a 10 day fight he passed away in the arms of his lovely Mom Amy along with Dad Chris in the parents room of a West Midlands Hospital.

I’d seen them before; I buried their other son Jayden who died in the womb at 20-something weeks gestation a year ago.

And when Amy and Chris contacted me to tell me that Tommy had died it broke my heart. That it should happen at anyone is tragic; that it should happen to this couple for the second time in one year is without words. And when they asked me to take their son’s funeral, well…

And on the day of the funeral family and friends turned up to pay their respects. Each person was given a pot of bubbles and, at the request of Mom and Dad, I was asked to invite those present to blow their bubbles- which they did – all except me! Why? Because, whilst I managed to get the top off the bubbles, I couldn’t get the wand out. And the more I tried, the slippier my fingers became and the more impossible the task. I told the people at the funeral about this, and they laughed! They knw what I’m like.

The service proceeded, and it was at the point in the service when we were all listening to a piece of music as a reflection, that I succeeded…the bubbles were open. And from behind the lectern, where I was sitting listening with others, I blew bubbles for Tommy. Important, because in his short life amongst us Tommy blew lots of bubbles, and his parents wanted to mark that aspect of his time with us.

They’d told me so much more than this of course. Of his beautiful black hair; his beautiful eyes; the way in which, whilst he would play up for the midwives, he would open his eyes when Mom spoke to him, and curl his little hand around Dad’s finger. Of how he was a fighter, and fought for 10 days (‘stubborn like his mom’) and when he passed away ‘he seemed to wave goodbye with his hand.’ Of how they still sleep with his blanket which holds the smell of him.

And still I blew my bubbles, in the crematorium chapel, and in my mind a picture formed. The picture of something so perfect, and yet so fragile. And one of the bubbles landed on the floor, it stayed for just a little while longer than the others; and just as I thought it might stay forever, it was gone.

At the graveside, after the service in the Chapel, we laid him to rest with his brother Jayden whose funeral I remembered as if it were yesterday. “One on top of another,” said Mum, “like the bunk beds we would have had for them.”

That was a while ago now. I still think about Amy and Chris, of Tommy and Jayden and of all the family. I have met some incredible people in my life; some inspirational people in my work as Chaplain; and Amy and Chris are up there at the top. I wish them good fortune, happiness and peace.

And the other day I saw some bubbles…

…just some kids playing and havig fun…… but guess who I thought of?

Thank You For Taking My Baby’s Funeral

At times I do a quiet piece of work; under the radar. In fact I am off to a tragic event this morning.

I am the one they often call when a baby dies; whether that be an early pregnancy loss or a stillborn baby.
After 4 years chaplaincy, and about 200 funerals, every time is still as tragic and emotional as the first time (and when it gets routine I will pack the job in!)

Often I meet the lovely couple in the hospital. Raw and shocked with their baby with them, they ask for a blessing.

And then we may meet at the funeral. So moving and tragic to see the little white coffin andnd the relatives grief. One of the most emotionally charged events I ever do.

And yet, in thier tragedy and grief, people still say thank you. This is a remarkable testimony to the human spirit.

“David, thank you so much for your care and support over the last few weeks.
The service for (N) was beautiful and every thing we could have wished for. With many thanks, (N&N)”

“Dear David, thank you for the wonderful blessing you gave our son (N) when he tragically passed away in hospital on (date given). It helped a lot talking to you and thans for all of your help with making decisions and planning his funeral. Yours faithfully, love (N&N)”

“Dave, we really do appreciate everything you have done. It has been a very hard time for us both and you have helped us a lot. We are sorry to have met you under these circumstances but hopefully will meet again in the future for something more positive! Thanks again. Hope to see you soon, (N&N).”

I share these, not to big myself up; anyone in my situation would do the same for these families. Rather I write so that, as a Trust, we can appreciate again, the emotional and spiritual needs of the range of patients whom we meet, so often, touched with tragedy and sadness.A privilege to walk with them a few steps of their journey; an inspiration to see them reatain hope when it has been dashed.