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Husband, father, grandfather, friend...a few of the roles acquired in 62 years of living.  I keep an upbeat attitude, loving humor and the singular freedom of a perfect laugh.  I don't let curmudgeons ruin my day; that only gives them power over me.  Having experienced death once, I no longer fear it, although I am still frightened by the process of dying.  I love to write because it allows me the freedom to vent those complex feelings that bounce restlessly off the walls of my mind; and express the beauty that can only be found within the human heart.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

New Life...And Hope

Copyright 2014 by Ralph Couey

"Babies are such a nice way to start people."
--Don Herold

There are so many wonderful things about the birth of a baby that it's difficult to sort through that blizzard of emotions.  But no matter how many births a person is a part of, somehow that sense of wonder is never lost.

She became our 10th grandchild, counting one given up for adoption and another who, after six difficult months, went to live with God.  It was the latter experience which has taught our entire family the most important lesson about the value and sanctity of life.

Sophie Kim, as her parents have named her, arrived on a hot and humid Friday evening, all 7 pounds and 19 inches of her.  Her appearance was the culmination of a fast-paced series of events, that began with the onset of contractions while she was at the pool with her first two kids.  About 5:00, she called our son, who against all odds was mere minutes from home.  A neighbor came over to watch the two kids, and Robbie and Yukyung jumped in the car -- all right, crawled in the car -- for a risky 35-mile drive to their assigned hospital in Fort Belvoir.  Being Friday, and at the beginning of the tourist season, and in the middle of the DC region rush hour, I did not give them good odds to complete the trip.  But complete it they did, arriving just before 7:00.  Less than an hour later, Sophie emerged into our world.

This morning, my wife and I drove to the hospital, albeit at a more sedate pace, bringing along the first two kids, 7-year-old Diana and 3-year-old Ian.  Once there, their sense of wonder at seeing their new baby sister was something to behold.  Ian's persistent question, "How did the baby come out?" went largely unanswered.  My cryptic response, "The same we she got in there" was far from a ray of light as far as he was concerned.

Cheryl, exercising the Grandma's Privilege, was the first of us to hold the baby.  As I watched, her eyes softened and her face was illuminated by a gentle smile.  She was in her element.  She was born for this moment.

I watched as she explored little Sophie, looking into her face, arms, legs, fingers, and toes, searching for, and finding those distinctive genetic markers identifying her as one of us.  Knowing how important this time was for her, I withheld my impatience until she finally looked up and with a big smile passed her over.

The movement caused her to stir a bit, and her dark eyes opened just a bit as I received her.  Then she settled right back to sleep.  Babies sleep a lot.  After all, getting born is hard work.  

We had four children, now all adults, and the experience of holding each one of them for the first time is sharply etched in my memory.  I remember the sense of awe and wonder, and also the heavy weight of pending responsibility.  And the fear of all the mistakes I knew I was going to make.  I thought about my parents, how I always considered them my superheroes, capable of almost anything.  They always knew the right answers; could always find the correct solutions.  I realized that they most likely felt the same crash of emotion as I did, but it was hard to think of my indestructible heroes  as ordinary people whose armor carried that emotional chink.

But with each of our grandchildren, that moment has been just as important, just as precious.  I look at these tiny little beings and see not only a wondrous creation, but the unknown and untapped potential that exists inside every human.  While the lion's share of the raising rightly belongs with her parents, I know that I, too, will have the opportunity to help shape the life of this lovely little girl.  For now, all my dreams for her are happy ones -- high school, college, successful career, all the things we think of as necessary ingredients for a happy life.

But below that optimism is a moment of sadness.  She will get hurt.  She will feel pain.  She will put her trust in someone who will break her heart.  She will know times of disappointment, perhaps outright failure.  But I also know that how she survives those times will, in many ways, be up to us whose job it has fallen to to raise her, to prepare her, to strengthen her, to fortify her will love.

"You know what the great thing about babies is?
They are like little bundles of hope.
The future in a basket."
--Lish McBride

Recently I finished reading the Hunger Games trilogy.  In the third book, Mockingjay, there is a moment when 17-year-old Katniss Everdeen voiced her decision to not have children.  The reasons were compelling, and painfully obvious.  She had no desire to bring a life into the world only to see that life taken by The Reaping and destroyed in the arena.  Children, in almost every human culture, have been seen as a representation of hope; hope that the world can be better, and that they can survive long enough to bring yet another generation into being.  The world is a painful place these days, full of sadness and suffering.

But we are still having babies.  I think as long as people decide to have children, it is proof that a spark of hope still lives.  That spark is something to build upon.  We only need to decide to go to work.

But if the birthrate begins to collapse; if people decide en masse that there's no reason to bring children into the world such as it exists, then we will know that the human race is in deep trouble.  Nothing is more final than the decision to not go on.

But I'm not Miss Everdeen; and this is not Panem.  I still believe that this is a world worthy of hope, and therefore, worthy of the effort to make things right for the future.

Today, when I hold my newest granddaughter in my arms, I know that she will be counting on me to make that effort; to not lose faith.

To preserve the hope.
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