I became a grandfather today.
It was supposed to be entirely different. We were supposed to hold a beautiful, warm baby girl. Instead, she died before she ever took a breath.
Everything was fine on Wednesday when Rachael went to the doctor. Rachael felt the baby kicking that night and went into labor the next morning. But when she arrived at the hospital, the nurses could not find a heartbeat. Charity Marie was born later that day at 6:34 p.m. My first grandchild.
We arrived at the hospital and went to the delivery room. Dave and Rachael were crying; Charity was on the bed. Charity was beautiful. She had a full head of dark hair and such pretty features. Her toes and fingers were perfectly shaped.
I held Charity. Her skin was soft but pale, and starting to turn blue. I looked at her and could only think of everything that she could become, but wouldn't.
Dave and Rachael left the hospital without their child. They loaded their belongings into a car with an empty baby seat. They came home to an apartment filled with a cradle, blankets, diapers, and toys that were no longer needed.
That night they were home alone, adjusting to a new reality. Instead of a baptism, they needed to plan a funeral.
When my father died over a decade ago, we celebrated a life well lived. But for Charity we could only mourn the full life we had hoped for her, the hopes and dreams that would never be fulfilled.
There was a simple graveside service. Just immediate family. The seminary dean gave a thoughtful message. Dave carried the small coffin with Charity's body and placed it in the grave. It was a small coffin in a small hole. It was so very hard to watch my son placing his daughter in her final resting place. Each family member put a flower and some dirt on the coffin, and we watched the gravedigger finish the job, shoveling dirt to fill the grave, and replacing the sod.
We cried a lot that week. "When will we be able to stop crying?" my wife asked. I don't know.
We will probably never know why—at least medically—it happened. We always want to know why things happen. We feel better when we know why. Maybe we feel like we have more control. Maybe we feel more like God.
Intellectually, I know God is in control. I have always trusted that God will take care of me, no matter what. But emotionally I'm not so sure. If God is in control, how could this have happened?
The Heidelberg Catechism says that faith is not only a knowledge and conviction, but also a deep-rooted assurance. It doesn't say anything about emotions or feelings. It's at times like these, when emotions are dry and there are no good answers, that the knowledge and conviction, the assurance of God's grace, carries us along.
We rarely know the answers to the "whys" of life. Sometimes we can look back and understand. But mostly the answers to our questions will have to wait for heaven.
We don't understand why Charity's door was closed before it was opened. We just need to trust; to know that God provides, even when bad things happen.
But it still hurts. And we still cry.
About the Author
Paul Zigterman is the father of six children. His second grandchild, Evelyn Bonnie, was born to Dave and Rachael on May 30, 2014. He is a member of Lombard (Ill.) Christian Reformed Church.