Barely a year later, another couple in our church gave birth to their first little girl. As with Andrea and Wendy, two years stood between their first child, a boy, and their new baby, Jolene.
As with Wendy, Jolene had a congenital defect. Her earthly life lasted six weeks, and then she was gone. We didn’t know the couple very well, and we hadn’t known Jolene’s life was in jeopardy.
The day of her passing, though, Jolene’s daddy arrived at our door.
“Our baby died this morning,” he said quietly. “I need to know what to do. You’ve done it. Can you tell me? How much will it cost? How do we plan a funeral? I don’t know anything—nothing.”
“Come in. Sit. Let’s talk.”
Dave, Rick and I spoke for an hour or more. Dave made notes. For him, the practical was most important. He needed to know what details would have to be addressed and how to go about managing them. Businesslike was the best way I could describe his approach.
Was he cold? Callous? Not at all. This grieving father was suffering beyond anything Rick and I had experienced. You see, at his birth, Dave had suffered a genetic defect that caused him to have several deformities. When he and Jill were married, Dave had been screened and assured that the gene responsible for this defect was recessive. There was no chance he would pass it on to a child as long as his wife didn’t carry the same gene, which, they said, she did not. They were wrong.
Jolene’s deformity had been so severe that she was unable to sustain life.
In Dave’s mind, he was responsible for infecting this wee baby with a lethal gene that had murdered her. His guilt was beyond anything we could grasp. To manage, he approached the funeral arrangements with an almost obsessive single-mindedness. He wanted details, and he wanted them now.
Rick and I understood enough to be able to accept his approach at face value and take our cue from him. Dave wrote down all we told him. Two pages of a scribbler were filled as he scratched out his action plan.
His task completed, he rose to leave. As we walked to the door, I stopped him.
“Wait. Wait a minute. I have something for your wife.”
It took but a moment to find what I needed.
“Here,” I told Dave as I handed him two wash-worn, faded cloth handkerchiefs.
“Jill is going to need these.”
He took them, began to turn on his twisted legs, and paused.
Tears filled his eyes.
“Could Jolene be buried with Wendy?” he asked. “So she could have a little friend?”
A week later Jolene Marie was laid in a grave next to Wendy Lorraine; two baby girls, loved, wanted, and taken home before we could truly know them. Such sorrow. Such loss. We liked to picture our two little girls, healthy and strong, running hand in hand in heaven. It helped.
Join me next week for Ch. 42. Andrea’s Story
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