Several years ago, my wife and I were thrilled to find out that she was expecting our eighth child. It is a curious fact that I have been just as excited about each child as I was for the first one. This makes sense, when one thinks that each child is an individual and unique creation. Nobody prepared me for this fact. The propaganda is that having several children makes it hard to value each one as if he or she were unique, and that they somehow all lump together. This is a vicious piece of fiction. In a family, no child is superfluous, or an extra, or just a statistical addition to the whole. What is amazing about the younger children is that as they are born, not only did we, the mother and father, welcome them with reverence and excitement, but their siblings did as well.
Our new baby was to be born sometime in March, and that Christmas was an especially delightful time. My wife, Theresa, and I had been praying the Rosary for the gift of a new child to add to the family, and when we discovered Theresa was with expecting, we provisionally named him or her Anthony. Provisionally, for in my experience, when each of our children was born, the name that we have picked out is not necessarily who is there looking up at us.
It was Christmas Eve, and we were all sitting at table having a light supper. My wife suddenly discovered that she was not well, and miscarried. Our little Anthony had died in Theresa’s womb before being presented to the world.
I provisionally baptized Anthony. I really am not sure if this is the right thing to do or not, and we were in a spot. Our other seven children were still at table, and our duty demanded that we not ruin their Christmas. We explained to them what had happened to their brother or sister (we still do not know), and had to put the best face on it in spite of our own sorrow, for their sake. It was a very strange time, for I could tell that they were also holding their sorrow in check out of concern for us, lest their sadness ruin our Christmas as well.
Because the ground was frozen, I cold not bury our miscarried child right away, so I placed his remains in a box outside in the hayloft until the ground thawed out in May. Anthony is buried in our side yard, and we pray to him to intercede for us, the first of our children to return to God.
Reading this, it all seems very maudlin. Medical experts tell us that this was a normal loss of tissue, and that the fetus was expelled due to some likely genetic error, or a mistake at implantation, and that the emotions we felt were simply a change in hormones on the mother’s part. Babies miscarry every day, we are told, and there is nothing to be done, and anything else is superstitious. I know this is not true, for I have seen the opposite. The family was drawn closer together, the sorrow was that mixture of sweet sadness that somehow intermingles with joy. To dismiss the feeling of loss as mere hormones misses the realty of human life and the connection between parents and children.
So, does this make God a cosmic abortionist? Is He choosing to do that which he forbids us to do? I know people who think this way. These are damned souls, or rather, these unfortunates have damned minds, and I trust these ignoramuses to God’s proven mercy. This way of thinking misses the point. Anthony was a gift from God. Each of us will die. The fact that our Anthony died first is not evidence of a wicked God, for each life is God’s gift. I can attest to the fact that our youngest child, Anthony has blessed our home with the gift of his short life.
There are many who will understand this. They are pro-life. There are some people who in their narrow-mindedness will besmirch everything that was beautiful about our youngest child, his life, his place in our family, and his death. These poor simpletons have believed the lies of the culture of death. These deserve our pity, for they miss out on the beauty that is the truth of each human life, however short. Anthony’s life has proven that.
David Beresford, of Dummer Township, is a professor at Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy in Barry’s Bay, Ont., and editor of Catholic Insight.