One of life’s biggest challenges is the day you become aware that there is much more road behind you than before you. Strangely enough, if you try to ignore or deny it, it will eventually overwhelm and consume you. But, if you face the reality of it head on, it adds a sweetness to life that just wasn’t there years ago. Even in Genesis, while God saw that each day of creation was good, it wasn’t until the sixth and final day that he saw that it was “very good”.
My wife and I married young. There is nothing quite like holding someone for the first time who you know you will love forever. Of course, at the time we were anxious to get on with life. If you would have asked me then, I am sure that I would have looked you directly in the eye, and without flinching, told you that we were exceptionally mature and ready. One doesn’t ever know what one doesn’t know.
And we had our four children by the time I was 30. If there is anything as terrifying and awesome as childbirth I haven’t experienced it. Three of our four child really struggled to be born. Jacob, our oldest, was a fetal stress baby. At the 11th hour, our doctor made the decision to move us from the cozy bedroom-like birthing room, to an actual sterile operating room. Michelle was immediately surrounded by nurses and a specialist showed up. Thankfully they all did their job well and, as our doctor said, “He scared us all a little bit, but he pinked up nicely!” It really took me until that moment when the nurse handed him to me for the first time for all my emotions to catch up with me. There is nothing quite like holding someone for the first time who you know you will love forever. “For a child has been born for us, a son given to us.” (Isiah 9:6)
Nathan, our second oldest, was the only textbook birth. Elizabeth, our only daughter, was born limp and blue. Michelle kept trying to sit up and see what was happening, while I kept pushing her back down and assuring her that everything was going to be fine, all the while being frightened beyond words. No sound was a sweet to me as when her piercing cry filled the delivery room. And our final son, Ben, was delivered by emergency C-section. The cord was wrapped around his neck. He would not have survived a normal delivery. We know something about the risks of childbirth. And yet, we also know the indescribable joy of childbirth.
We had decided ahead of even Jacob’s birth how we would go about naming the children. Each would have their own, unique first name, but their middle name would be shared with someone from our families to connect them to a deeper sense of belonging. We did bend the rule a bit with our daughter as her first name is my mother’s middle name, and her middle name is Michelle’s mother’s first name.
That greater sense of family, of belonging, of shared history really became evident as my children grew up, married, and had children of their own. I remember feeling overwhelmed when I saw my oldest son holding his own newborn son. Love is more than emotion, because you can see it. I knew and lived again what Jacob was just learning: There is nothing quite like holding someone for the first time who you know you will love forever. And so, it has been ten times over now.
This week grandchild eleven was born healthy and ready to get on with life. My daughter and her husband had shared with me a couple of months ago when the ultrasound showed that the baby was a boy that they intended to name him Daniel John. Daniel being my name, and John being his other Grandpa. From that moment on I have been too choked up to talk about it. The honor is not lost on me.
Shakespeare said that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, and there is truth in that. But I ask you, what other name would better capture the essence of the flower? Rose is the truth of the thing. I believe that names matter. I feel a great sense of responsibility towards this child. I pray that well into his life that whenever a story is told about this grandfather, that little Daniel knows that I have not left him footsteps to walk in, but rather footsteps in faith, in life and in love that point him in the right direction. I ask for God’s blessing on wherever his adventure takes him. I appreciate that just because he shares my name, that he is not a younger me. He is and always will be his own person.
He has already given me the greatest of gifts. His father handed him to me, just hours old. I felt it once again, and knew that there is nothing quite like holding someone for the first time who you know you will love forever.