Volume 2 Number 5
Lonely Pain
01 May 1989

At 8 pm on 5 January 1985, in his mother's arms, David stopped breathing.

We were caught completely off guard when the consultant informed us that our baby son David was suffering from acute heart failure. He was so young and had developed so well that it was difficult for us to accept what we had heard. It was so sudden. He had a 'silent' congenital heart disease.

For three agonizing weeks we battled for his life. His condition got worse. Often he would not stop crying - although he could only cry between gasps of breath. His breathlessness and palpitations increased.

At 8 pm on 5 January 1985, in his mother's arms, David stopped breathing. An emergency cardiac massage met with no response. He had succumbed to congestive cardiac failure which was secondary to the congenital disease. He was only four months old.

We cuddled him for as long as we could. We summoned up the courage to sing his favourite hymns. Then, with the help of his godparents, we sponged and clothed him for the last time.

The ache of losing our first born can never be erased, even with the passing of time. The joy of his birth and the anguish of losing him so soon afterwards still flood our memories at times. We had prayed earnestly for David's complete recovery. We had also accepted that we must be willing to give David back to God. But that did nothing to blunt the cold reality that he was gone.

Pain is very lonely. We moved from faith, across the chasm of feelings and emotions, to the unanswerable question, `Why did this happen to us?' There are so many things in life which are hard to understand, hard to explain and therefore hard to bear. We cannot know whether they are God's will or simply part of the cost of our being human. What held us through the most testing days was the knowledge of God's infinite love for us and for our little son, whom he had chosen to favour in heaven.

Though David's life was tragically short, in his suffering he brought us closer to Christ and drew us together in a new way. We had often taken each other and life for granted. David taught us to love and cherish each other more.

We were given a fresh realization that what we have is not ours. We are only stewards of what God gives us, including our children. Accepting God's love, even in the midst of such pain, has freed us to love and forgive, to live purposefully and courageously in our imperfect world.

Our experience makes us feel closer to helpless fathers and mothers in countries like Ethiopia and Kampuchea where innocent children have paid with their lives for the callousness of the world. Almost a year after David's death, on Christmas Day 1985, we visited a Kampuchean refugee camp. We wept with families who had suffered untold tragedies. We pray for the power of God's healing upon all who have suffered.

In Audrey, our two-year-old daughter, we are reminded afresh of the wonderful gift oflife. Together we look to the future. David is an unseen but real part of all we do.