"Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God... for God is Love." 1 John 4:7-8
"(Joseph's life) so touched my heart that it would change my life forever. For the first time in my life I observed what unconditional love is and learned how to give thanks in all circumstances." Dr Huang, Anesthesiologist, Sinai Hospital
Joseph meeting his family
(Photo Credit: www.heatherbeephoto.com NILMDST)
Finally we meet face to face!
Singing in the OR
We love you sweet baby
Joseph Angelo, Pray for Us!
On the day of Joseph’s birth, we met Dr. Ligang Huang, the Anesthesiologist who would be caring for me during the Caesarean Section. Dr. Huang was so moved by her witness of Joseph’s life that she wrote a beautiful, very personal essay about her experience and has shared it with us. I am humbled and blessed to share some excerpts of her essay with you now. She she shares her experience from a perspective of one who met Joseph and was deeply touched by his brief life. We are so thankful for her account….. She writes….
“I have been an anesthetist for eight years and I’ve lost count of the times I’ve done anesthesia for caesarean sections. Many times I celebrated the birth of a new life. Sometimes I was saddened to see some premature babies requiring intubation sent to the neonatal intensive care unit. A few times, the fetus had already died in vivo, and I mourned with the moms. Over all these years of providing obstetrics anesthesia, I either celebrated the new births, or lamented for the lives lost. There was never a time to celebrate and mourn, feel joyful and sorrow at the same time. Last week, one of the caesarean sections transcended this dichotomy. It so touched my heart that it would change my life forever. For the first time in my life I observed what unconditional love is and learned how to give thanks in all circumstances.
Preoperatively we were informed that the fetus had Thanatophoric Dysplasia, the term means death bearing in Greek. This is a very rare genetic disorder due to one single gene’s mutation. The fetus’ skeletal system is severely affected, as a result of it, the thorax is extremely short and small, and the lungs fail to develop. Many fetuses die in the wombs, and a few who survive to birth will soon die due to respiratory failure. Knowing this, all the people at the labor and delivery unit showed extra consideration to the patient Jenny and her husband John. I had a brief conversation with them during the preoperative interview. They looked quite calm, though a hint of sadness was observable.
Technically this C-Section was no different from other Caesareans. My student did a spinal anesthesia for Jenny…. Then the obstetricians started the surgery. I saw John holding a small bag with blue-flower print. I asked him what it was for. He said it contained a small water bottle and other baptism supplies. Soon the baby was delivered. He only cried twice in a weak voice, then stopped.
She goes on to describe the surgery and Joseph’s appearance and states
Then John walked over to him, disregarded the baby’s physical appearance, gently said to him: “Joe, Joe, dad is here, mommy is here. We both love you, but Jesus loves you even more. Happy birthday!” He talked to the baby as if this child was a healthy, vibrant, handsome boy, a noble prince.
She describes Joseph being handed to John and him cutting the umbilical cord, and states she was so touched when she heard John say something like...
“Although you are not perfect in appearance, you are whole. In the eyes of the Lord Jesus, you are whole. ” I did not know how many people in the room understood what he just said, yet I was shocked and touched. The baby was motionless, did not breathe. A little bit light of life in his eyes gradually dimmed, the color of his face became more and more pale and dusky. John held the baby to Jenny’s bedside, his hand stroking the child's little hand. Then this young couple started singing hymns and praying together. One of the hymns was Jesus the King of Kings. John looked at the baby tenderly, kissed his little face, touched his little fingers. As he was kissing, he choked with singing……From time to time he kissed his wife, holding her hand to comfort her….Jenny's abdomen was being stitched….. She suppressed her own discomfort, turned her head toward Joe and kissed him. At last, this couple’s hands locked together holding the baby. They sang to him so gently as if singing lullabies. Such tenderness, passion and love overwhelmed me. I had never seen something like this in my entire life. Everyone’s eyes were wet.
I stood next to John, not knowing what to say. All the words in the world seemed inadequate. In the intense light of their love for the baby and for each other, all words become feeble. The only thing I could do was to give a couple of gauzes to John to wipe his tears. My nurse anesthetist picked up John’s camera and took hundreds of pictures.
They did not despise the baby for his appearance, nor reject him because he did not do anything for them in return. They loved him unconditionally, the way he was, not expecting any reward. They had known that this child's life might last just a few minutes, and he would never become a Dr. Successful to bring them glory. Yet they still loved him. They knew that this child would not even smile, or cry, or respond to their love, but they still loved him tenderly. They loved him, because he was created by God with the breath of life. They loved him in awe and fear of God, and accepted the gift from God humbly and gratefully. They loved him, because Jesus loves us unconditionally. God has chosen us, not depending on our cute appearances, talents, wealth, intelligence or innocence. There is not a single righteous man in the world, all people have sinned. …..Yet Jesus still accepts us just the way we are. He even willingly came to this world to be crucified for our sins!
Oh, Jesus, Lord Jesus! As Christmas is coming, in the peak business time of the year, people are busy buying gifts, installing lights to decorate for the holiday; they seem to forget the true meaning of Christmas. The holiday is anything but a time for more fun and happiness. But what is the source of happiness? If Christmas is not focused on the Lord Jesus Christ, why do we celebrate Christmas then? At this season of celebration, how I am grateful for Jesus’ incarnation 2,000 years ago. If he did not come, we would have no future to look forward to. We would not know what unconditional and selfless love is. If he did not resurrect, we would not be able to receive His new life for eternity. The true meaning of Christmas is not about commemorating the birth of a child, but rather to commemorate the Word became flesh, the King of kings’ incarnation. Now God's love shines its radiance from within this young couple.
In contrast, how many of us appreciate the lives God has given to us? How often do we offer thanksgiving when we wake up every morning, realizing that we are able to breathe? How often do we count our blessings before we go to bed at night? We don’t cherish the children God has given us. We often think the children are our own properties. We treat them as machines and demand them to perform exactly as we desire. We scold them when they are not sensible. When they don’t know how to handle things, we do not have the patience to teach them. When their academic performances do not meet our expectation, we belittle them. We speak harsh words to them. We think that we love them, but often we love the illusions in our minds. We plan for their future professions, but we do not think it worthy to bring them back to God. Do we ever appreciate our children solely on the basis of their being created in image of God? We have seen too much violence, selfishness, greed, and indifference around us. In fact, our love is selfish and conditional. We really do not know what true love is, and do not know how to love others.
John was well aware of the feelings and emotion of his wife. At this moment of suffering, he did not even think about himself, but held out his hand to console his wife. He did not even bother to wipe his own tear but reach out for her..... He kissed his wife affectionately. He did not blame his wife for the child's deformity nor turn any anger (if there was any) toward her. And Jenny meekly accepted her husband's love and care… How many couples can share the bitterness and sweetness of life together? How many couples can face trials of all kinds from heart- to- heart?.....
She goes on to say….
In the past two decades, I have watched magnificent choirs, have listened to hymns of all kinds, but none has moved me like this couple’s. Although this choir had only two persons, their voices trembling, songs with broken sentences, without musical instruments for accompaniment, but I dare say it played the most beautiful music in the whole world, and offered the most moving praise to the Lord, because they sang from the bottom of their own hearts.
How would parents feel when they watch their child's life gradually slipping away? How would they feel when they celebrate the coming of a new life and have to bid that life farewell at the same time? How is it supposed to be when joy mixed with sorrow? How wrenched are parents’ hearts in the loss of their own child? Is there any trial in life greater than this? What is the strength that holds John and Jenny up? What is the secret that lets them sing praise while their hearts are broken? The answer comes from the faith which is rooted in the foundation of Jesus Christ. This couple’s faith is not merely intellectual faith or knowledge, or verbal profession. Their faith comes from the gospel of Christ. They knew that this child, though his life was short, would not be subjected to suffering any more, for he was now at a more beautiful palace, where there is no death, no disease, no pain, no crying. He rested in the embrace of the Lord Jesus.
The apostle James said: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you face trials of many kinds.” (James1:2) Many people think that it is just intellectual joy, and in reality no one can do so during suffering. But this couple proves that it is attainable to be joyful when one suffers. Their joy comes from the promise of Jesus Christ, from their faith in the words of the Lord. Yes they were sad, but more joy in the hope of seeing their beloved Joe in heaven again later. Praises mingled with tears has great power to touch people’s hearts.
Jenny told me that they had known the diagnosis when she was in her nineteenth week of pregnancy. But they did not want an abortion, for they believe that life is a gift from God and God alone has the right to take it back. “The Lord has given, and the Lord has taken away. May the name of the Lord be praised.” (Job 1:21) Each day they would hug the baby in the belly while waiting for him to grow more. Their love for him got stronger and stronger. Did they complain against God about the baby’s deformity? Did they blame unfair fate? Were they angry or upset? No. They chose thanksgiving and gratitude instead. With tears Jenny told me that she was very grateful, for she had not expected the baby to live more than a few minutes, but God gave them one hour to love him! Joe was born at 9:40 am and passed away at 10:40 am. Within this short period of time, Joe was baptized with water, held by his four grandparents, and hugged by his big sister. They wanted to give him nothing but love. What is the concept of one hour? … They thanked God for giving them far more than their expectation! I just could not believe my ears to hear her saying that. Do we ever thank God for each hour of our life? In 24 hours each day, how often do we give the due thanksgiving to God for being able to take a breath? We often take God’s blessings for granted, and we still complain! We really do not know how to be grateful.
This C-section experience will not only transform me, but also transform many people. Love, transcending time, space and circumstances, is the power of melting icy hearts. Thus love comes from God, for God is love. (1 John 4:8)