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In His Few Hours Here, Baby Draws Family Into Circle of Life [Intense]
NewHouse News Service ^ | 5/3/03 | Chris Meehan

Posted on 05/05/2003 3:16:10 PM PDT by Incorrigible

In His Few Hours Here, Baby Draws Family Into Circle of Life

BY CHRIS MEEHAN
Newhouse News Service

[Grand Rapids, MI] -- With the best of intentions, people ask me how I feel about the recent death of my grandson, Gabriel Aaron Meehan.

I keep wondering how to answer that. Of course, I feel awful, as do my son and his wife, and my wife and other members of the extended family. But there is more, so much more to how I feel, and to what I think.

I wouldn't even try in this tender time, following the baby's death from a condition called anencephaly, to convey what everyone else may be feeling. Sorrow has them in its grip, I'm sure. So I'll keep it to me.

The experience was tragic and terrible, and yet it's been in many ways wonderful and even transforming.

It's probably best to start at the beginning.

First arises the picture on the big IMAX screen of the movie "The Lion King." It's the powerful opening scene in which the father lion, Mufasa, presents to the horde of animals gathered on the savanna his baby son, Simba. In the background plays the song sung by Elton John called "Circle of Life."

I'd never seen the movie before and was struck by the immense gathering of animals -- looking as if they filled the whole world -- to view and honor new life in the form of the cub.

My mind turns to that film because it was right after taking my grandson, Zach, to see it that I learned of the ultrasound that diagnosed the condition involving the incomplete formation of Gabriel's brain.

I had dropped Zach off at the doctor's office, to which his parents had gone to see the photos of the baby developing in my daughter-in-law Kelly's womb. This was to be their third child. A day that had been filled with joy and expectation turned suddenly dark with terror.

My son Ben didn't know everything that day, but he knew enough. "It doesn't look good. We need to see a specialist who'll tell us more," he said right there in the parking lot.

Only later did Kelly let us know that in the early going, right about Christmas, one of the doctors recommended that she terminate the pregnancy.

We didn't talk much about this. But I do recall sitting with her at a second birthday party for her daughter Emmarie and listening to Kelly talk about what she confronted.

These aren't her exact words, but they went something like this: "I know this won't be easy. I feel the baby kicking already. But I think in the end it will be easier if I see this through. Already I love this baby."

To be sure, ethical issues and dilemmas abound here. Some people say that an anencephalic baby is not really totally human, that this child can never be conscious, that it could never feel pain or be aware of its circumstances. Others argue that such children, born often with many otherwise healthy organs, ought to be candidates to become organ donors. (Federal law, in most instances, prevents these children from being donors for various medical and ethical reasons.)

Still others say that carrying such a child to full term is bad for the mother and father, given the trauma they face knowing the child is so damaged and likely will not live beyond a few hours. Why put them or the baby through such anguish?

On the other side is a right-to-life position that says we need to preserve life at any cost. This side argues that this is a child in God's image and likeness and deserves to be born and to breathe and to live out its life in a natural fashion.

I'm not really sure how Ben and Kelly wrestled with this, but I have a notion that they didn't have theological or philosophical debates over what constitutes life or when does a soul arise in a fetus. No, I think it was fairly clear for them from early on. This baby was theirs, an integral part of their lives as soon as it was conceived, and they would give it a chance at life.

At times, I wondered what I would have done in the same situation, as did my wife. It's a tough call.

The months of waiting ended about noon on April 15 when Dr. Anita VanDeBurg, after holding hands and praying with us in a hospital room, delivered baby Gabriel by a Caesarean section at Spectrum Hospital in Grand Rapids, Mich.

Not long after, my son carried the baby down the hall to a recovery room. Once things were settled, I walked in, wary and worried and wondering how I would react to seeing and touching my new grandson.

What struck me first was how tenderly Kelly was holding him. Blue from lack of oxygen, the child was nonetheless bravely breathing. And his mom was right there, encouraging him to grab whatever life he could.

And he did.

A powerful life force pulsated in his tiny body. Hearing him breathe, seeing his face, listening to his mom offer her love made me gulp with emotion.

This was high-stakes drama, and a story that could too easily turn into melodrama -- except for this, the sheer reality and weight of that baby. He was real. He was not an ethical question or a moral quandary. No, he was a baby boy in the flesh. Under the knitted cap were brain tissue and a barely functioning brain stem.

But that isn't what we looked at in the hours that followed as all of us got the chance to hover by Kelly's side and to watch as she mothered her child and as my son acted with great dignity like the father that he is.

My wife, Mary, and I got to hold him a few times. He was a little person in my arms. His eyes, maybe only on reflex, opened at one point, as if, as my wife said, he was checking to see who in the world were all of these people who filled that room with such love. Because it was love, a solid, sure feeling of compassion and concern, of warmth and ready willingness to be a part of this day, that was so prevalent there.

The Rev. Ray Townsend, pastor of Leighton United Methodist Church near Middleville, Mich., was there for most of that day and saw the love there, too, and mentioned this love in his sermon at the funeral. "God enabled this family to love, to hold, kiss and love this tiny child, and then they gave him back," he said.

What Ben and Kelly did, Pastor Ray said, is something "few can understand in our busy world filled with confused priorities."

During the hours in the hospital room, I remember how Kelly's dad, Shorty Williams, held Gabriel, his eyes misty, and spoke of all the things he wanted to do, but now never would, with his grandson. "We'd go mushrooming and fishing and walking in the woods," he said. "I'm trying to pack all of that into one day."

He was filling the short hours with thoughts of what could have been, and with a grandpa's love riddled with loss and sorrow that nonetheless carried hope. In her eulogy given at the funeral service, Kelly's mom, Barb Williams, put it this way:

"He was a strong little boy whose heart wanted to stay with his loving family, but instead he went to the loving arms of Jesus with a piece of all of our hearts."

As well as with Gabriel's short life, I remember the baby's death. My wife and I returned to the hospital, not long after having left for the day, following Ben's call to tell us Gabriel had passed away.

Alone in the room with Kelly, Ben had been holding the baby and counting his respirations, hoping and praying with every breath Gabriel took that his fragile life would last. But soon his son's breathing slowed and Gabriel died. When we came into the room not long after, Ben was mixing a plaster solution with help from a nurse to use to make a mold. He and Kelly wanted a reminder of the shape and size, the wrinkles and edges, of Gabriel's tiny foot.

He worked slowly, carefully, helping to create something that would be among the many things that keep Gabriel's memory alive.

Then there was the funeral, and I had the chance to give my own eulogy. As fate or maybe something much stronger would have it, my granddaughter Emmarie let me hold her and take her with me to the altar. That's when I spoke about "The Lion King," the movie her brother and I saw last December when Gabriel's condition was discovered.

In my eulogy, I also recalled being in that hospital room -- with the pastor, the doctor and all of the others -- surrounding Kelly, Ben and Gabriel with our time and attention.

On that day our priorities were in one place, around that bed, in a circle of life that goes on, in a process that is so hard to understand and yet is the one that sustains us best.

With Emmarie in my arms, I had the chance to read parts of a poem, given to me by my boss, that refers to "the Spirit of Light of the Circle that continues without end."

Finally, the burial, which was held on a cold, windy day in a country cemetery. I recall my son carrying that small white casket across snow-spotted ground, weaving through grave markers and then setting it down on the green carpet covering the hole in which Gabriel would soon be put to rest.

I was proud of Ben and thought of the day going on 30 years ago when I was in the delivery room and he was born. He came out crying, a small bundle of flesh and bones.

As the circle expanded, he grew up, met Kelly, built a house in Middleville, had two children and then a third.

His name was Gabriel. He's flying now with the angels, and possibly doing it in circles. They say that the baby never had consciousness and that he never felt pain. Maybe so. I do know, though, that those of us who walked with him for the few hours that he was here have awareness and we feel pain.

But there is more. There is always more. I want to raise Gabriel up right now for the world to see. I want to celebrate that often difficult and yet comforting circle of life.

Thanks, Gabriel, for bringing me into the circle and reminding me that love weaves through us all.

(Chris Meehan is a staff writer for The Kalamazoo (Mich.) Gazette. He can be contacted at cmeehan@kalamazoogazette.com)


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Editorial; US: Michigan
KEYWORDS:

1 posted on 05/05/2003 3:16:10 PM PDT by Incorrigible
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To: Incorrigible
God bless them. I'm crying.
2 posted on 05/05/2003 3:21:27 PM PDT by wideawake (Support our troops and their Commander-in-Chief)
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To: Incorrigible
Thank you for sharing the most touching story I have ever heard in my entire life. Now Gabriel will live on in the hearts of many. How fortunate you are--such an incredible family. God bless each and every one of you.
3 posted on 05/05/2003 3:39:13 PM PDT by biss5577
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To: Incorrigible
Absolutely beautiful! Thank you so much for this touching article...
4 posted on 05/05/2003 3:47:12 PM PDT by detsaoT
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To: Incorrigible
God bless you for this life-affirming post. I'm copying now. Also sending by email to www.str.org. They will appreciate this!
5 posted on 05/05/2003 3:53:51 PM PDT by Cordova Belle ("America is great because she is good. When America ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.")
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To: Incorrigible
a bump and a *sniff*
6 posted on 05/05/2003 3:54:55 PM PDT by stands2reason
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To: stands2reason
Have you ever visited www.str.org?
7 posted on 05/05/2003 4:00:12 PM PDT by Cordova Belle ("America is great because she is good. When America ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.")
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To: ohioWfan; lawgirl; rintense; azGOPgal
Pro-Life Ping!

Warning: Three kleenext tearjerker!
8 posted on 05/05/2003 4:01:46 PM PDT by Maigrey (Member of the Dose's Jesus Freaks, Take a Bullet Republicans, and Gonzo News Service)
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To: Incorrigible
My father was the product of a 16 year old pregnancy. His mother left him with good people willing to take him in. He is such a gentle man. He raised three children, two of which hold PhD's in Mathematics. There is no way to describe the positive impact he has had on so many lives. I wonder if women had "choice" in the 40's would this woman who never once in visited him in 46 years have made the right one?

Thanks for your post.

Jeff
9 posted on 05/05/2003 4:21:18 PM PDT by math=power
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To: Incorrigible
Thank you. Gabriel will be in my heart as I volunteer in a pregnancy center. I pray that the mothers who come there will value their babies as much as Gabriel's family did him.
10 posted on 05/05/2003 4:31:21 PM PDT by luckymom (Proud SAHM, ret.)
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To: Incorrigible
This should be required reading for anyone who wants "services" at any "family planning clinic" which receives our taxpayer dollars. It's only fair; if some one wants to take the "easy" way out, then they need to be made to think about the differences between the dignity that we witness in this account, Vs. the evil alternatives.
11 posted on 05/05/2003 4:36:16 PM PDT by GOP_1900AD (Un-PC even to "Conservatives!" - Right makes right)
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To: Incorrigible
bump for later reading
12 posted on 05/05/2003 4:39:49 PM PDT by I'm ALL Right!
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To: Incorrigible
Oh my goodness. Beautiful, sad, and heartwarming all at once. What wonderful, special people -- every one of them.
13 posted on 05/05/2003 4:45:15 PM PDT by TrexDogs
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To: Incorrigible
I'm trying to recall the details of the editorial column in the New York Times a while back, but only the general outline of the story comes to mind. Briefly, the writer recounted a decision he and his wife made to terminate a troubled late-term pregnancy rather than give their child a few moments of life after birth. They felt the child kicking in the womb and actually gave him a name, even as they sent him off to the abortionist for execution. Afterwards, they made up all sorts of excuses to rationalize their selfishness. It was the very antithesis of this story--as if there were a Red Zone and a Blue Zone way of dealing with these things.
14 posted on 05/05/2003 4:46:48 PM PDT by madprof98
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To: Incorrigible
Thank you so much for this wonderful article. Children are so precious, and Gabriel is truly an inspiration to all of us, as is his loving family who chose to give him a chance to be born and live, if only for a short time.
15 posted on 05/05/2003 5:00:25 PM PDT by conservativeammom
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To: madprof98
bump.
16 posted on 05/05/2003 5:08:17 PM PDT by GOP_1900AD (Un-PC even to "Conservatives!" - Right makes right)
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To: Coleus
You might like this story.
17 posted on 05/05/2003 5:22:25 PM PDT by Incorrigible
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To: Cordova Belle
No.
18 posted on 05/05/2003 5:35:03 PM PDT by stands2reason
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To: belmont_mark
There was dignity in this child's short life---contrasted with a clinical dismembering and a "final resting" in a biohazard container.

He lived, and he died. He touched people's lives. He was a person.

19 posted on 05/05/2003 5:42:00 PM PDT by stands2reason
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To: Incorrigible
God bless you and those you love.
20 posted on 05/05/2003 5:48:12 PM PDT by lsee
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To: Incorrigible; discostu; Alamo-Girl
come read this very sweet story
21 posted on 05/05/2003 5:49:13 PM PDT by Boxsford
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To: Truelove; Teacup
bring your kleenex and read this.

A wonderful life to have lived for such a short time yet touched so many lives.
22 posted on 05/05/2003 5:55:05 PM PDT by MudPuppy (Semper Fidelis!)
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To: Incorrigible
bump for a later read ....
23 posted on 05/05/2003 5:59:10 PM PDT by RedWhiteBlue
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To: Incorrigible
"Sent by Angels" by the Arc Angels

I can see angel eyes,
And I feel myself arise.
Well I know, you're so wonderful,
And I know, you're not from this world.

You were sent by angels,
From the sky above.
Sent by angels . . .
You were sent by angels,
From the sky above.
Sent by angels . . .

I can feel you when I fantasize,
I could show you when I'm inside.
Then I'll know you're so wonderful,
And I know you're not from this world.

You were sent by angels,
From the sky above.
Sent by angels . . .
You were sent by angels,
From the sky above.
Sent by angels . . .

I can see the other side,
I can hear the distant cry,
And I know you're so wonderful.
And I know you're not from this world.

You were sent by angels,
From the sky above.
Sent by angels . . .
You were sent by angels,
From the sky above.
Sent by angels . . .

24 posted on 05/05/2003 6:27:13 PM PDT by Alberta's Child
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To: Incorrigible
Another Angel Gabriel. I lost a 4 month old baby boy that I had spent 5 months, flat on my back in bed ,trying to save during pregnancy. It's never easy.
25 posted on 05/05/2003 6:35:42 PM PDT by potlatch
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To: Incorrigible
How wonderful that they didn't take the specialist's advice. Because of that they were able to spend some time, brief though it was, in complete love with their child. What a beautiful and peaceful memory they and their other children have now.
26 posted on 05/05/2003 8:08:26 PM PDT by SuziQ
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To: Incorrigible
Mr. Meehan is not alone.

When Six Months Is A Lifetime.

27 posted on 05/05/2003 9:20:18 PM PDT by TheWriterInTexas (For my nephew, Eric.)
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To: Incorrigible; WarSlut; Mr. Silverback
During the hours in the hospital room, I remember how Kelly's dad, Shorty Williams, held Gabriel, his eyes misty, and spoke of all the things he wanted to do, but now never would, with his grandson. "We'd go mushrooming and fishing and walking in the woods," he said. "I'm trying to pack all of that into one day."

I can barely read the screen. Thank you for posting this incredibly heart-breaking, and heart-warming story. What an amazing family to share that very personal and poignant story with the world. Gabriel's gift obviously lives on.

I have a real problem with doctors who 'recommend termination' to mothers who obviously CHOOSE to have their babies, or why else would they be seeing an OB? I have a feeling this family would not have healed so fully, although I know it is not yet complete, if they had followed the doctor's advice.

28 posted on 05/06/2003 12:00:34 AM PDT by cgk (Liberal truisms are the useless children of hindsight.)
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To: Incorrigible
Thank you for posting this. I'm sure that Gabriel is watching over his family. My prayers for them.
29 posted on 05/06/2003 4:46:44 AM PDT by ContraryMary
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To: TxBec; secret garden; hobbes1; Slip18; dubyaismypresident
what a beautiful story.
30 posted on 05/06/2003 4:52:44 AM PDT by xsmommy
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To: xsmommy
thanks for sharing..it reminded me of my friend.. (I told you about her)...
31 posted on 05/06/2003 5:18:02 AM PDT by TxBec (Tag! You're it!)
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To: Incorrigible
Tear-filled bump....just beautiful.
32 posted on 05/06/2003 5:22:09 AM PDT by GodBlessRonaldReagan (where is Count Petofi when we need him most?)
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To: Incorrigible
What a sad and wonderful story!
33 posted on 05/06/2003 5:28:10 AM PDT by Prince Charles
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To: TxBec
yes you did, that is why i pinged you.
34 posted on 05/06/2003 5:29:20 AM PDT by xsmommy
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To: xsmommy
She went into premature labor (pretty late-term though) and delivered the baby. However, there were complications..this baby, too, only lived for a couple hours.

The family all held her and I've seen her picture. She's buried near my home.

35 posted on 05/06/2003 5:56:40 AM PDT by TxBec (Tag! You're it!)
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To: TxBec
bittersweet. lovely they got to meet the baby. sad to have such a brief time.
36 posted on 05/06/2003 5:58:36 AM PDT by xsmommy
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To: 2nd amendment mama; A2J; aposiopetic; attagirl; axel f; Balto_Boy; bulldogs; Charlie OK; cgk; ...
ProLife Ping!

If anyone wants on or off my ProLife Ping List, please notify me here or by freepmail.

37 posted on 05/06/2003 11:08:33 AM PDT by Mr. Silverback (Papa luvs MOAB, Mama luvs MOAB, killing Uday with it, Killing Qusai with it, Saddam looks & sez WOW!)
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To: Mr. Silverback
oh goodness, how beautiful. I am all broken up now. Gotta hurry home and hold my own little treasure tightly.
38 posted on 05/06/2003 11:28:28 AM PDT by Charlie OK
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To: Incorrigible
During the hours in the hospital room, I remember how Kelly's dad, Shorty Williams, held Gabriel, his eyes misty, and spoke of all the things he wanted to do, but now never would, with his grandson. "We'd go mushrooming and fishing and walking in the woods," he said. "I'm trying to pack all of that into one day."

That, right there, is where I lost it.

39 posted on 05/06/2003 12:14:38 PM PDT by Mr. Silverback (What is it with you people and your constant demand for funky taglines?)
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To: nickcarraway
ping
40 posted on 05/06/2003 12:20:12 PM PDT by Desdemona
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To: 4TheFlag; Aeronaut; ALOHA RONNIE; AntiJen; Aquamarine; AuntB; AZ Flyboy; Beach_Babe; BeachBelle; ...
*speechless with tear filled eyes*

What a beautiful read and a true testament to the meaning of being "pro life" and the gift God gives us in the form of children... no matter how long they are with us.
41 posted on 05/06/2003 12:41:16 PM PDT by Johnny Gage (God Bless our Military, God Bless President Bush, GOD BLESS AMERICA!!!)
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To: Johnny Gage
Thanks for the ping Johnny.

Pro-life Bump
42 posted on 05/06/2003 12:46:10 PM PDT by SAMWolf (*ERROR* TAG.TXT REPLACED WITH FOLGERS CRYSTALS.)
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To: Johnny Gage
tear fillled bump!

Thanks for the ping.
43 posted on 05/06/2003 1:19:26 PM PDT by Soaring Feather
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To: stands2reason
Your words bear repeating:

There was dignity in this child's short life---contrasted with a clinical dismembering and a "final resting" in a biohazard container.

He lived, and he died.

He touched people's lives.

He was a person.

...... And he was loved.



44 posted on 05/06/2003 1:39:27 PM PDT by victim soul
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To: Johnny Gage; Incorrigible
*speechless with tear filled eyes*

Me too! Thanks Johnny, but don't do this to me again. Please,,,,

45 posted on 05/06/2003 2:19:11 PM PDT by SCDogPapa (In Dixie Land I'll take my stand to live and die in Dixie)
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To: Incorrigible
Already I love this baby." and then the baby was damaged

We are all moved but having a hard time saying why...the reason is this...this mother's love is God's grace towards us, personified.

46 posted on 05/06/2003 3:25:23 PM PDT by Dutchgirl
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To: Incorrigible
It is a wonderfull story of love..one that accepts..yet is willing to risk the pain which comes with choices.

Am reminded of the story of Yoni Jesner in Israel..horribly maimed by a suicide bomber..his family decided on terminating life support.

Yoni's Kidney was given to a young Palestinian girl ..whose family had been waiting 2 years for a suitable donor.

Mercy Triumphs over Judgement...but the greatest of these is Love.

47 posted on 05/06/2003 5:04:34 PM PDT by Light Speed
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To: Johnny Gage
But soon his son's breathing slowed and Gabriel died. When we came into the room not long after, Ben was mixing a plaster solution with help from a nurse to use to make a mold. He and Kelly wanted a reminder of the shape and size, the wrinkles and edges, of Gabriel's tiny foot.

He worked slowly, carefully, helping to create something that would be among the many things that keep Gabriel's memory alive.

So sad. May Gabriel rest in peace and may God, who beholds the little angels in heaven grant unto him Eternal rest. May the love of God and the peace of the Lord Jesus Christ bless and console his family and friends.

48 posted on 05/06/2003 7:40:32 PM PDT by Victoria Delsoul
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To: Boxsford
Jeepers... Thank you so much.
49 posted on 05/07/2003 1:42:13 PM PDT by Alamo-Girl
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To: Incorrigible; Johnny Gage
beautiful, sad, hope, strength,

"God enabled this family to love, to hold, kiss and love this tiny child, and then they gave him back,"

50 posted on 05/07/2003 8:30:03 PM PDT by Countyline
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