The earthquake and the baby

Published 7:12 pm Saturday, March 12, 2011

Half a world away, the images beamed to us through satellites showed, the planet was literally tearing itself apart, and families were coming to grips with the horrible reality of rebuilding their lives after a devastating earthquake and tsunami.

But in a labor and delivery room at Maryview Hospital in Portsmouth, a little girl had been born, and a family was rejoicing at the blessing they had received from God.

After laboring in the delivery room for almost 26 hours, my stepdaughter had her fourth child, Leia Rene, on Friday and I became a Grandpa for the fourth time. By noon, I would hold her in my arms — this tiny girl whose perfect little features and peaceful demeanor seemed so at odds with the epic struggle she had faced coming into this world.

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This is the first grandchild I’ve held so close to birth, and I’ve got limited experience with babies, anyway, since I have no children of my own, nor any brothers or sisters. So the whole experience was new to me, from visiting the hospital’s birthing center to rocking a newborn grandchild as she slept in my arms. I’m at a loss to describe the peace and love that came over me in that chair, but I suspect that many fathers and grandfathers understand just what I felt.

By mid-afternoon on Friday, I was wiped out from having spent the past day and a half waiting and worrying. I took a nap, awoke later and found a place to spend some time alone, first of all to thank God for His blessings and His protection of both mother and daughter and second to try to understand the emotions of the previous hours.

I love all of my grandchildren, and I’m happy to tell you about them sometime, maybe even show you a photo or two. But this was different somehow. This love is mixed with a sense of wonder at the marvel of this new life. This love feels even more poignant for the contrast between the miracle in that delivery room and the tragedy half a world away.

Perhaps we’ll never be able to think of Leia’s birthday without also thinking of that great and terrible catastrophe that had taken place only a few hours earlier on the same date in Japan, where so many people had lost their lives.

But I wonder if there might be a lesson about the fragility and sanctity of life in both events. Ever since the fall of man in the Garden of Eden, life is hard on this accursed soil from the moment we begin to be born. We face hardships we cannot imagine, but also joys we neither deserve nor expect. And we never know when the whole thing will come to an end.

In the meantime, we can choose to love, the same way that God chooses to love us. Doing so, we open ourselves to blessings beyond our wildest dreams.

Pray for the people of Japan.

res spears is the editor of the Suffolk News-Herald. He can be reached at 757.934.9616 or at