Bob and I like to go to the early church service because there are fewer people and it's usually quiet. I like to say that it's more “worshipful” in early service. (That might be a new word.) Today was the exception and I was caught completely off guard when I walked through the doors. The hallway was filled with so many people and the “noise” overwhelmed me. I wondered what the occasion was. As I walked past “Grace's” picture hanging on the wall...a picture of Jesus holding an infant given by my parents in memory of Grace...I glanced over to see friends and family taking pictures of a baby. I thought, “There's going to be a baptism today.” The joy that this family is celebrating today, is the same bittersweet joy that takes me immediately back to the operating room on Grace's birthday.
Thankfully, this baby became a child of God through baptism today. I believe that we are all sinful from conception. The Bible says in Psalm 51:5 “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.”
Part of me felt angry that this family waited this long to have their son baptized. He was born the end of December. I don't want to judge them. I'm sure they had their reasons for waiting...maybe waiting until all of their family could witness it. I remembered back to our first 3 daughters' births. At that time, I was living in my content little world where everything seemed to be going according to my plans...my world where babies don't die. We had the girls baptized a couple of weeks after their births...when it was convenient for us and for the sponsors. So, who am I to judge?
I was rejoicing with this family this morning. I just couldn't show it through the tears running down my face and by my red, runny nose. I'm sure that I appear angry and jealous to others. No one ever asks why I cry. I don't give anyone the opportunity to ask anymore. I'll explain that later.
I watched as Pastor H. baptized him. The parents, sponsor, and pastor smiled. Thankfully, we were smiling, too, when our 3 older girls were baptized. We also had family and friends witness these special days with us. The girls received cards and gifts, and I'm pretty sure that we celebrated with a meal, too.
Since Grace died, those happy memories have a cloud hanging over them. As I watched this morning's baptism, I couldn't get the visions of Grace's baptism out of my head. As I was lying on my back, looking up at the white ceiling of the operating room, a nurse came over to me and said that Bob had baptized our daughter. He hadn't even named her yet. I hadn't even seen her. I didn't get to witness her baptism. We already knew before our baby was born that he or she would be baptized immediately after birth. Bob and I talked about that weeks before. I felt relief when the nurse told me this, but then I began to wonder, “Did Bob use water?” I didn't want to ask because the NICU team was in the room and everything was so serious and quiet. I didn't want to bother anyone. (Sounds crazy to say that today, but that's how I was feeling.) Bob said later that day, that he didn't want to ask them for water because “things were a little crazy in there”. Of course, they were. I just wasn't able to see it.
I also know that it wouldn't have mattered anyway. Grace came to church with us every Sunday for 9 months. She heard the Word and the Holy Spirit was already at work creating faith in her little heart. I absolutely believe this!
Moments later, they took Grace to the NICU and Bob said, “You know that she won't live.” That's what I see every time I've witnessed a baptism since Grace's. So, if I cry, let me cry. I'm o.k. I just continue to hurt...not all of the time, but more so on Sundays. We used to stay for Sunday School between services. This isn't always the case anymore. It usually depends on how high the emotions are running at the end of service.
This morning, we left immediately. I wasn't going to give anyone the chance to ask me if anything was wrong. To be very blunt, I wasn't going to allow anyone the chance to smile at me as they looked at my bloodshot, puffy eyes and red face and ask if Bob was working today, or ask how the garden is. Unfortunately, this is how most of my friends avoid my pain...smile and change the subject. The walls become a little higher with a little more distance added.
It really helps to write...
Thankfully, I did witness Grace's baptism about 3 hours before she died. We asked our pastor to baptize her while she was in the NICU. I can still see all of the tubes that were going into her and can hear the beeps of the machines that kept her alive. I watched our pastor baptize Grace with water as he said, "Grace Elaine...I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." Then the 3 of us said the Lord's Prayer. We didn't have smiles on our faces, but we did have peace and joy in our hearts knowing that she was about to go home to live with her heavenly Father for eternity. I continue to look forward to experiencing true peace and joy in heaven. It can't be found here on earth.
There was no party. There were no cards or gifts. (I did find her a birth and baptism card a few weeks later.) These are all earthly, temporary things anyway. Grace received something even better on her baptismal day, which also happened to be her birthday. She received the gift of eternal life in heaven.
On our refrigerator hangs a cross that says, “Grace is a gift from God.” In our curio cabinet, each of our daughters has her own shelf of special things. On Grace's shelf, there is a pink cross that has her name on it. The top of the cross says, “God's Child”. That is who Grace is!