I wonder whether we, the local populace, realize how blessed we are to have so many wonderful military families attending and participating in our church services. They come to us as strangers, but our welcoming attitudes and their willingness to accept our invitations soon cast them as strangers no longer.

I would like to share a heart-warming account of one such member who lived with her Air Force captain husband and their four children. This true story is about their fourth child, a son, whose arrival had been eagerly anticipated by the entire family. Come he did, but could not linger. The mother, whom I will call Faith, wrote the following inspiring reflections to and about her newborn son:

Dear William

Medically, you only lived for about twenty-two hours, but I know your life began, your spirit entering your body to create your soul, before you took your first breath. Even before you saw the world, you responded to our voices, to being fed, and sung to. Your movements weren’t just physical reactions to stimulus, but choices to interact with people who already loved you and places that were already your home.

The first day I felt you leap inside me I knew you were already a whole person and a precious soul.

I don’t know why my body did not keep you inside longer. It makes me sad to think of you losing the warm, protective water surrounding you, losing strength as the blood meant to sustain you also drained away. You were at a disadvantage the day an infection invaded your already weakened home. You were feeble and sick by the time the surgeons took you from me at 25 weeks.

I hadn’t realized this before because your heart rate had always been steady and you had shown your strong will each time you kicked the monitor right off my belly.

Once born, you did fight, William. The doctor who reported to us about your first hours did not think you would live. By the time we reached your bedside, any hope amongst the medical staff was almost gone. But as we waited and watched them work for hours to sustain you, you suddenly improved, allowing your body to accept the oxygen being given to you.

We went to bed that morning with hope in our hearts, having witnessed a miracle and knowing that God’s hand was over you.

But there were to be many more crises that day — a surgery on your collapsed lung and your oxygen levels dropping each time someone X-rayed, tested, or even moved you.

We finally realized the Lord’s plan was not for you to stay on this earth when the medical staff saw your heart rate dropping and resorted to CPR. The lead physician, who cared for you very much, explained to us that they were now only causing you pain.

Compassionately, they unhooked you from the tubes and monitors that had covered you all day, clothed you in a soft gown, and handed you to me.

Daddy was right by your side, as well as Grandma and Sister Pat. The physician and nurses wept. One of your eyes strained to open and your little brow wrinkled in an effort to take in the voices and smells that had been familiar to you most of your life.

I don’t know how much you understood, but I explained to you that Heavenly Father needed you to return to Him. You are a special spirit who only needed to live long enough to gain a body. You had already proven to be so valiant that you did not need to be tried with the experiences, temptations, and pains of this world.

I told you that you must have an important work to do in the Spirit World. You will not be denied the experience of life, for you will be resurrected when Jesus comes to the earth again. In his great mercy, the Lord will allow us to raise you from a baby into a man within a glorious millennial environment.

William, I will never forget your precious, perfect face which relaxed in final peace when your spirit left your body to go to paradise. It is a beautiful face, with features so much like your brother and sisters. Every part of you is perfectly formed, from your hands to your long, slim feet.

Daddy and I long so deeply to hold you again and feel that such longing will help us in our own journey back to the presence of the Lord. Daddy says that now we have something to look forward to when we die — seeing you.

I too feel that you are our link to heaven. Heaven is so hard to imagine, and though we can envision the Savior’s face, we have never actually seen Him in this life. But we have seen you, William. We have held your precious body, smelled your sweet skin, and kissed your perfect face. We can always recall our short encounter with you, a heavenly being, when we need help pressing forward to our goal of eternal life.

My faith in God has increased from this experience, as has my gratitude for the glorious plan He has laid out for His children. I want more than ever to become like Him, so we can all live together as a family in eternal happiness.

I will miss you so much but know I will hold you in my arms again. I love you forever.

Love, Mommy.

•••

Faith’s sister read that tribute during the service.

I shall ever remember the day I entered the chapel on that June 21, 2008, the day of William’s funeral. How sad to see an infant’s casket on the funeral stand. Yet, there seemed to be an air of hope permeating from the congregation and from a family with strong convictions of a literal resurrection.

The service commenced with an opening hymn followed with William’s paternal grandfather petitioning the Lord in prayer. Speakers offered positive and uplifting messages of assurance.

There were songs of hope including “Mother tell me the story.” The first stanza fittingly read: “Mother, tell me the story that I love to hear. Tell me of heaven and why I came here. Mother, tell how you love me, and gently speak, and then I’ll go to sleep.”

In song the mother responds: “Child, I am here. Can you feel that heaven is near? Sleep, sleep; a love watch I’ll keep, to protect you through.”

William’s maternal grandfather pronounced the benediction.

Come June 12, William would have been celebrating an 11th birthday, no doubt joined by a host of friends, his parents and siblings. His oldest sister is 18 now, but at the tender age of 7 she courageously stood and sang at baby William’s funeral “A child’s prayer.”

William’s only brother was 5 and his baby sister 2 on the day he was born and passed.

They are now 16 and 14 respectively.

Would be that every mother’s love and conviction paralleled that of my friend, Faith, and her devoted husband. I appreciate their willingness to allow me to share such a personal experience with you.

Mothers, my prayer would be that each of you will be blessed on this your special day. Particularly those who may have lost a treasured child.

And should you be blessed to have a mother who’s weathered many years, care for her as she once did for you. Author Frank McCourt once penned a verse well worth reflecting upon: “Love her as in childhood, though feeble, old and grey. For you’ll never miss a mother’s love, till she’s buried beneath the clay.”

Sherwood Williford writes a weekly column for the News-Argus. Contact him at 919-440-8811, Sherwoodowl@hotmail.com or P.O. Box 175, Princeton, NC 27569.