From across the hallway I heard a voice.
In the corner of our hospital waiting room I saw the caller I recognized as the father of a baby I wrote about almost three years ago. It was then I received a rather anxious call telling me little Aaron Brown wasn’t doing well and the parents were asking for me to “please come.”
I drove to the hospital in the middle of the night, where I heard Aaron’s parents describe a problem pregnancy that had been filled with questionable neonatal reports.
Nevertheless, the parents nursed thin hopes that our neonatal doctors would find things more fixable than prenatal care had predicted.
But the reports weren’t nearly so promising. Tests showed underdeveloped lungs and a failing kidney. Concerned doctors were seeking parental consent for a birthday surgery.
“Can you baptize him, chaplain? Or bless him? Something. We’ve got to do something! He’s got to have a chance,” said Leslie Brown, the boy’s mother.
“Yes, I could do that,” I said and directed them into our Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
NICU is a cramped place where doctors, nurses and respiratory therapists squeeze through tangled tubes to deliver highly specialized health care to the tiniest people you’ll ever see.
But as cramped as it was, the staff made room as I entered with parents in tow. As we encircled the baby, the usually noisy NICU fell silent in readiness for this “emergency blessing.”
Unceremoniously opening a bottle of sterile water, I placed a drop on the baby’s forehead and asked that God “bless this child in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” With that, Momma’s sobs burst through the temporary dam precariously created from her quivering lips.
As she cried, she took her son’s tiny hand and finding a spot that wasn’t wrapped, poked or monitored, she placed a kiss in the palm of the baby’s hand and whispered something into those tiny fingers. Then, as if she had placed something of priceless value in her son’s hand for safekeeping, she closed it tight.
Since writing this story, I’ve been able to follow Aaron through many of difficult and anxious procedures. Before each surgery, we’ve uttered a prayer while Leslie whispers yet another promise of love.
In fact, I’ve spent so much time with the family that the only surprise I had when I heard Aaron’s father call out was where he was sitting. It was the waiting room of our Labor and Delivery, where a very healthy sibling named Isabella had just been delivered, weighing 6 pounds, 12 ounces.
Leslie’s promise of love has always reminded me of the love God whispers into the hand of each of us when we are born, placing there a promise that, persuading us that no matter what, he will never let us go. And having pledged that love to us from our first breath to our last, he wraps our fingers around that promise for safekeeping.
The Apostle Paul called the love of God very persuasive and he was certain “that neither death nor life, nor height nor depth, would ever be able to separate us from that love.”
As a minister I often talk about the depth of God’s love, but Aaron’s story will always serve as a tender reminder of how personal and deep God’s love is for me. For into that tiny hand, a mother delivered a heartfelt whisper, giving me an oft-needed reminder that God will never let me go.