Olivia was born on December 20, 1988. She was delivered in a doctor’s office by a Papua New Guinean doctor and his down to earth, blunt nurse. In America if the cord is wrapped around the baby’s neck, the nurse might say, ‘Hold off on pushing, dearie. Breathe, breathe, Ok, there we go, all good now.’ My PNG nurse simply shouted, ’You are keelling de baby! Stop pushing! You are keelling de baby!’ That works too. I obeyed her, the cord was untangled and our little girl was safely born.
That was Monday. Kim and I and our new baby came directly home to the Lae guest house and introduced our fifth child to the other four.
On Wednesday of the same week, I went to the local hospital for a minor surgery. In no time at all I was wrapped in a stained -but clean -white sheet. What looked like baling twine was tied around my ankle and attached to it was a note which had my name, procedure and doctor written on it. I lay on a gurney as it was pushed out one building, down an outside alley and into another building to await my turn in the operating room.
That done, home we went again to anticipate Christmas two days hence. Because we were away from our island home and in Lae City to have our baby, we did not have Christmas decorations with us. A friend gave us a small plastic tree complete with lights. We put it on a coffee table, made a few decorations and called it good. It was a lovely time. We had our new baby. Our family was complete, 3 boys and now 2 girls. How happy we were.
On Christmas Eve after the kids went to bed Kim and I put the presents we had brought back with us from the states under the tree, filled the stockings, snuggled our baby and counted our blessings.
Early Christmas morning I went outside and picked several hibiscus flowers, brought them inside to place among the branches of our little plastic tree. Now it looked extra pretty and festive and PNG appropriate!
Hibiscus flowers, once picked, live only a few hours. For the time we opened gifts they remained bright and beautiful. By afternoon they were drooping. By nightfall they were closed up and finished.
This month of Olivia’s birth I think of her short yet lovely, bright, happy life. I push past the pain and bewilderment of loss to savor with love and thanksgiving the dear lovely happy gift she was and is to our family.
Last Sunday in church we sang, ‘Blessed be the name of the Lord. Blessed be His name. He gives and takes away. My heart will say, blessed be his name.’ My husband and I cannot sing that song without tears in our eyes. Our trembling lips can barely form the words. But I like to think this. God did give us Olivia and for her short life she brought joy, delight and laughter to our family. And God did not just ruthlessly take her away. He took her away to Himself. His grace was in the giving her to us and his grace is also in the welcoming her home to be with him forever.
I don’t know if there will be hibiscus flowers in heaven but if there are, they will forever be alive and vibrant. As will Olivia. As will we. ‘And forever we shall be with the Lord.’ This then is our comfort and hope.