For the past few months, ever since my sister and her husband told us they were expecting a baby, my sons have been looking forward to meeting their new cousin.
Nothing is more exciting than a new baby, and for our sons, this would be their first cousin living in town, one they would grow up with. We’ve prayed for this little boy, showered him with presents, and called him by name for months. The summer night when my sister called to tell us his name, I handed the phone to Daniel, and he very sweetly said, “Hi, Georgie.”
Then last week, with just about six weeks to the baby’s due date, my sister and brother-in-law lost their son. I got the news and the world stopped. I could hardly breathe. I thought immediately of the unimaginable pain my sister and brother-in-law must be facing, and I was frozen. I can’t describe the pain and heartbreak at losing my nephew, my parents’ youngest grandchild, the baby—little Georgie—we have been so excited to welcome into the world.
I was sitting in the car about to go pick up Daniel when I received the news.
“Oh, no,” I said aloud, forgetting that Leo was sitting in his seat behind me.
“What’s wrong, Mama?” he asked. He had heard more than my words. He heard the shock and sadness.
At that moment I realized not only did I need to share devastating and incomprehensible news with my children—but I had no time in which to prepare. I didn’t know what to say.
I stalled for a few minutes and prayed—not for the words to share the news with my son, but for my sister and brother-in-law and their baby.
When I could speak, I turned to Leo. I started by gently telling him that Georgie had gotten sick and the doctors couldn’t make it better, so he had died. I said that we were happy because Georgie was in heaven, and we’re always happy when people are in heaven, because we all want to go there. But we’re also very sad because we were excited to meet Georgie and play with him and do so many things together.
He listened. And then he started asking the question anyone would ask: “Why?”
After we grappled with that for a while, he said indignantly, “But Mama, you said we would get to meet him!”
And I realized that summed it up perfectly—he felt cheated, and so did I, that we wouldn’t get to enjoy the sweet baby boy we love and have prayed for and gotten to know and marveled at in so many ways. We have watched him grow and we have counted the days until his arrival, imagining his first Christmas and then many more firsts for years to come. It is just so unfair.
I’m not sure how much Daniel, who is going on 4, understands. But one morning he drew a picture for “baby Georgie in heaven.”
Later that day both boys wanted to talk about heaven and their little cousin. Leo was asking questions about how people’s souls go to heaven and their bodies are on earth, and I was floundering a bit. Then he said he wished we knew what the baby looked like.
“Well, actually, I got to see him,” I said. One of the most amazing gifts anyone has ever given me was that the evening after my sister delivered her son, she and her husband invited me to come to the hospital and see him.
My little nephew changed my life long before I held him, but getting to touch his perfect little hands and feet, see his sweet lips, feel the weight of him in my arms, and give him the kisses I told him were from his Uncle John and my two sons—his cousins—was extraordinary.
I had the chance to see him in his parents’ arms, and I will always, always be grateful for that. I sat there feeling so blessed that God had sent them—and their families—this beloved treasure, this sweet child, even though we so dearly wish we could have had him in our arms for much longer.
Leo wanted to hear every detail about what his little cousin looked like. And it was then that I decided I should show him the one photo I had taken of his aunt and uncle with their baby boy. They have many pictures of Georgie, but I asked if I could take just one for my sons. In the photo the proud, loving parents are smiling for the camera, and they are holding their beautiful, wonderfully made baby boy.
I don’t have a print of the picture yet, so I handed Leo my camera.
Our son has never seen a new baby, and I had no idea what he would say about this tiny little boy he has waited for so long. I was actually a little nervous. And then I watched as his face lit up with a huge smile.
“Oh!” he said, beaming with absolute joy as he turned the camera to show his brother the picture. “Look at him! He is SO cute!”
Yes, he is. And he will be forever. And we know when we see Georgie in heaven, he’ll come running to greet us.
We’ve been talking to him a lot over the past few days. I just wish we didn’t have to wait so long to see him again.
We all miss him so much.