A Still-born Brother Still Lives
It was July 17,1960. We sat on those hard metal, gray foldout chairs. I sat on the edge of my seat; straining to hear what the preacher, was saying. All I can remember is he said, be brave, be brave over and over. I glanced over at my father, crying, holding a handkerchief to his nose. So I cried, too. It was a good thing, as the tears prevented me from seeing the tiny brown box that held the body of my still born brother, whose birth we had anxiously awaited all through the winter, spring and early summer.
My mother, along with my two brothers and I had caught the mumps, a now rare viral childhood disease. I don’t know who got the mumps first, but back then such childhood diseases were still common and as we know now pregnancies were ravaged by such diseases.
When my father came home from the hospital with the news the baby had died, he sat on the bed that my two brothers and I shared and bravely broke the news to his three sons. I was always the most inquisitive of the three of us and asked what did he look like. Taking a deep breath and fighting back the tears, my father almost smiled and said, he looked just like Steve, my oldest brother by one year. “He had a lot of hair,” my father said. And then silence. A lot of hair. That’s what I remember most. A lot of hair, unlike my youngest son who was born with almost no hair and now carries the name of his long diseased uncle, Timothy Paul.
One of the great mysteries in life is the origin of our individual spirit; our unique conscientiousness that makes us who we are. If my brother, Timothy Paul was born dead, did it mean that he never had a spirit? Or as I am sure the preacher at graveside must have intoned, did his spirit fly away at death to be with God? Scientifically, we know that no brain cells ever fired after he was born. There was never any awareness of life outside of the womb; no sights, no sounds, no sense of being. Yet somehow our conscientiousness of him, back on that warm summer’s day, or our anticipation of him all during the months of my mother’s pregnancy when he was alive, gives meaning and a kind of spirit to him.
I named my youngest son for my brother because for me his spirit never left and somehow in the depths of my soul I believe that the connectedness of all things gives continued life to my brother through my son. I have no idea what my brother would have been like. His ambitions, hopes, joys, love and sense of self were all buried with him on that small plot of ground in the little brown box. Yet, I believe there is an infinite whole that connects everything, including a fetus in the womb-whether it survived to birth or not-and the infinite potential of existence that pervades the universe.
My son, Timothy-Paul, his uncle’s namesake, is now twenty-five years old. His uncle would have been fifty-three. During this memorial week I celebrate both of their lives, for where there is love there will always be life.
To God Be The Glory, Forever and Ever