It was sometime in March when we found out that we were pregnant with our second child after a few months of trying.
Needless to say my wife, Nancy, and I were elated. We broke the news to our son and he too was happy. We were mentally preparing ourselves for the arrival of this second child. I guess becoming parents for the second time did not scare us as much as the first time. We told our friends and our family members as well. They too, were happy for us.
The euphoria died down when we had our first routine ultrasound. We found out that our baby was not well — missing kidney, choroid plexus cysts in the brain. Scores of ultrasounds ensued thereafter to determine the real condition of the baby. We were told by doctors that the baby may not survive to term much less to birth. The doctors suspected that our baby had a genetic disorder called “Trisomy 18,” a condition they called “incompatible with life”. We were asked to abort the baby, but our faith kept us together and we wanted to see our little one born. The next five to six months were a challenge. My wife’s tummy did not grow any bigger. Our emotions were raw. We were frightened. The thought of holding a dead baby in our arms. But in some ways, I had to be strong for my wife and my son. We persevered.
Against all odds, on Nov. 21, 2007, Thea was born on my birthday. It was a bitter sweet day for me. A week later, she was confirmed to have Trisomy 18. We did not know how long she would live. But we treasured each day we had with her. Each day, tucked in the far corner of our minds was the thought, “Is this the day”? Beyond the doctor’s expectations, she lived for over two months and passed away after 80 days. We were so happy to have spent both Christmas and New Year’s with her.
I am a pastor. I regularly go to hospitals, people’s homes and everywhere to bring hope and some joy to people who go through difficult times such as what we went through. I was able to speak words of comfort to those in anguish. But my own pain? Where were those words of comfort that I uttered to others?
I thought this would break me. Seeing my daughter being born and then dying in my arms with my very own eyes was a surreal experience. I could not believe this was happening to me.
But in some ways, it is perhaps, the best thing that could have happened. Thea was very sick and she needed to be in the Father’s hands. She would have been far better off being with the Father than with her own earthly father. I needed to learn to let the Father take over.
It was a life changing experience for me. I thought I was good at ministering to people. People light up when they see their pastor show up in their midst of agony. But I was only able to speak to them, not fully able to empathise with them. Thea’s experience gave me a perspective that I could never have had otherwise. I could enter people’s pain and know what it is like to go through pain. I could speak of pain knowing that I have experienced it myself. In a way, Thea made me “real.” A “real” minister. A “real” pastor.
I was able to speak words of life, rather than just words of encouragement. I was able to do life with my fellow human beings, who were going through pain. It taught me to speak my words gently. It taught me to act with compassion.
It has been four and a half years now since the passing of Thea. I want to use that experience to pursue something that could better help others in their times of pain. I decided to go back to school and pursue a doctoral degree in the area of preaching, but more in the area of pastoral care. The element of pastoral care in preaching. I believe that preaching to a congregation is not just preaching the bible to the people. But it ought to have the element of care in it. In that, we must know the people in our congregation and we need to know them more than just a mere “hi and bye” on Sunday mornings. When people know that their pastor loves them and cares for them, preaching becomes more effective.
Khay See is one of ten finalists for the International Student Voice Magazine scholarship sponsored by International Student Protection. He is from Canada studying for a doctorate in ministry Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary.