This has proven true in life. I have been changed by events of the last month. Many of you have been following the journey my family took this Christmas. My children’s father died last Tuesday, January 20th. While he’d lived a good life and was ready, it was still difficult to let him go.
A few days ago, my daughter asked me to find a photo of the first time her father had held her. She wanted to put it beside the last time she’d held him. I was profoundly struck by this desire. I knew how important it was to her and I knew the photo existed. I went through twenty years of albums, but didn’t find it. I eventually discovered it in a scrapbook where I’d placed cards and letters from friends and family welcoming Bonnie into the world. Next to the photo, printed in her dad’s very neat script, was the following journal. He’d written it at midnight on the day she was born.
To describe this event is to attempt to describe the indescribable. I don’t mean that the functional or anatomic components of the birth of my daughter could not easily be described as indeed these events have been in the medical texts on obstetrics. I intend something far different from the biological event. I’m referring to that overwhelming unity that I had with my wife. Something unique in the universe happened to us when Bonnie was born. It was as if I felt a part of her as I never before felt. We held each other’s hands during those final contractions. When I saw that God had given us a baby girl and then told this to my wife, a sensation of warmth and joy poured through me. We both shed tears of joy and in so doing experienced the ultimate in sharing. We were truly one in this act of love. When Bonnie was born, the love we shared was reborn. The nurses and physician present realized something new had occurred because they were happy too. But they will never, never comprehend what transpired between the two of us. It was truly a renewal.
Tonight, in the hospital we reviewed the sequence of events that had occurred on this historical day. We recalled the details of labor and delivery—stopwatch in hand! After Bonnie was born (officially 12:23 a.m.) and her mother was taken to the recovery room, I followed. We embraced, and she said that I had now given her everything. I had known that she had wanted a daughter because she wanted to know that special kind of relationship that exists between mothers and their daughters. Neither of us spoke of this wish because we would have welcomed a second son into our family. But this baby—this Bonnie Elizabeth Clayton—received a welcome into our hearts as no other child before born of woman ever received. Thank you God for this new life and the love that gave it birth.
This Christmas I saw John for the last time. Many of you know this because of my blogs and entries on Facebook. I thought I’d said it all. But there was something that happened in the hospital I didn’t mention in my previous entries. My son, David, had taken a break to get some fresh air. Bonnie and I remained in the hospital room with their father. She sat on one side of his bed, I on the other. I was holding his hand while she talked to him, smiled her radiant smile, and later read that amazing passage about love from I Corinthians .
And so, when I found the journal John had written 41 years ago, I thought about what Jim Frey said about beginnings and endings. I thought about how lucky I am to be a writer--to be able to think through my words and have epiphanies about what really matters in our lives. I learn things about life and myself I may not have otherwise realized. As I held John’s old and withered hand, it was hard to know where I ended and he became. We were one again. The three of us in another hospital room more than two thousand miles away from that first one. Bonnie was no longer an infant—she was a bright star in the dark sky of that dying room. She radiated with love for the man who’d fathered her. She ushered him out of this life with the same intense love with which he had ushered her in.