Comfort, Joy and Hope on Olivia’s Birthday

IMG_0393Olivia 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.

hibiscus flowers in treeEarly 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.

10 thoughts on “Comfort, Joy and Hope on Olivia’s Birthday

  1. This brings such hope to the Christmas story. Jesus, the baby, the God-man, came also to die. I cannot imagine being his mother, Mary, and years later watching His cruel death. I believe there are special burdens each of us are called to bear as His children. Some bear the burden of a handicapped child, some the burden of losing a child, or divorce, or some lingering illness, some the burden of being persecuted, or living in poverty, of being tortured. And the list could go on and on. Sort of like the list in Hebrews 11. Yet we know, in the midst of our tears and pain and sorrow, that His burden is light and His yoke is easy. Having lost a child too, I can say that His burden is light, but He knows it is still a burden. He has shown me many things through the loss of our son. But oh the anticipation of seeing him again! And the greatest gift has truly been His presence with me, revealed to me in deeper and deeper ways.
    I remember meeting Olivia at church one Sunday morning as a 3 or 4 year old. She had the blondest hair and a beautiful sparkle in her eyes. And then I had the privilege of getting to know her again as a young lady in high school, full of fun and energy and joy. So Happy Birthday, Olivia! We know you are in the presence of the Lord, where we long to be. And it is His presence that brings us peace on earth.
    Thank you, Vivian, for being so honest and sharing your story with us. May His peace keep you this Christmas Season.


  2. I am seeing the dance, that she is so high and graceful that she appears to be flying. Her sweet spirit touched many, her memory lives forever. I smile with the memories of her dance, her laughter and her sweetness. I also remember how she lit up when she spoke of family. Hugs and prayers and thanks for allowing me to be blessed in knowing her for a short time!


  3. Oh dear Vivian, this is so powerful – tender words from a mom that longs to see her little daughter – & you will! And this is especially why I like my 3rd granddaughter’s name (Olivia Hope), named after your Olivia. Much love, Joy


  4. Vivian thank you for sharing with all of us such an amazing event in your lives, the birth of Olivia! Thank you for the incredible reminder of the hope we have. Olivia’s beauty in every way continues to impact peoples lives! We loved her


  5. Hi Vivian, We haven’t been in touch for years (I think you may have written to me when my husband had started using facebook and even though my name was there–I wasn’t really on yet!.) I have thought of you often during the years. So very sorry you had to go through the loss of a sweet beautiful daughter and so happy for God’s peace in your life–that you transmit through your writing! So thankful for all the special memories you have–I know they are a gift from God! God bless you!! Love you!!


  6. Thank you for sharing this remembrance. Tears and smiles together. Olivia did make us laugh. And she was comfortable with everyone, regardless their age or personality. I loved that about her.


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