Babe in arms

I was at at a gathering of The Well, an emerging congregation that often meets in our church’s building, last evening. Also present was a young family with two children. For most of the evening, the youngest of their children was sleeping, being held by one or the other of her parents as they passed her back and forth. Watching them filled me with warm memories.

I know that one of the best feelings in the world is holding a child next to your own body, but knowing how wonderful that feels isn’t the same as remembering exactly how it feels. Fortunately we have grandchildren to remind us and we are often blessed by being allowed to hold the children of others. Yesterday morning I was given the gift of baptizing another young child. She was the fourth grandchild in the same family that I have baptized and her sister and two cousins were there to witness her baptism. They probably don’t remember their own baptisms, but they will likely remember hers.

At the end of the evening, as I lay in my bed drifting off to sleep, another memory came rushing to my consciousness. It is a memory that frequently comes to me and one I may have previously mentioned in my blog. When our daughter was very young she suffered from frequent ear infections and her doctor recommended a small surgical procedure to insert tiny tubes. The only incision in the procedure is a tiny one in the ear drum. The tubes allow pressure to equalize between the inner and outer ear, thus providing relief from pain and avoiding a tear in the eardrum. The procedure is fairly quick, and performed on an out-patient basis but does require general anesthesia because the child must be perfectly still during the operation.

We agreed to the procedure and I took her in to have it performed. Then came the moment when I had to hand her to the nurse and wait in a small room while the procedure was performed. As I handed her away it was almost as if I could feel her small weight and presence still in my arms. I sat down in that waiting room chair and was overcome with a feeling of intense worry. I knew the procedure was safe. I trusted the physician who was performing it. We had made an informed decision. Still, I couldn’t help but wonder what I would do if something happened to this precious little child whose care had been entrusted to us. Fortunately, the procedure was soon over and she was returned to my arms.

Raising a child, however, that feeling comes back over and over again. Her first day of Kindergarten, the first time she rode her bicycle out of my sight, her first day of high school, the day she got her driver’s license, the time she left with a group of students for an exchange in Japan, leaving her at college, her departure to a job in New Jersey, a trip to Costa Rica when she went through customs by herself, saying good bye when she moved to England for two years, saying goodbye when we visited her in England. The list goes on and on.

And I know I will carry parts of that feeling with me for the rest of my life.

Right now I am intensely aware that two weeks from today she and her husband will board an airplane bound for Misawa, a city in the eastern Aomori Prefecture in the northern Took region of Japan, where they will live for the next four years. Fortunately we are in a position to be able to visit them while they are living in Japan. Fortunately we live in the age of Skype and FaceTime and other technologies that enable us to see each other frequently. But seeing isn’t the same as having a hug. Chatting over the Internet is wonderful, but it isn’t the same as sitting down for a cup of coffee across a table face-to-face.

I know that I have nothing about which to complain. Many families have endured separations that are far more painful and permanent than ours. When it comes to children and worries and problems, we have been so exceptionally fortunate that I am constantly aware of living in a state of blessing. Still, that tiny baby I once held in my arms and about whom I worried more than was necessary is now an adult and off on adventures of her own. I am amazed at how comfortable she is in her world and how competent she is to move about the whole world. So far her mother and I have never contemplated living in another country.

I’m already practicing for the time they will be living in Japan. Now, as I write, it is 8:23 pm in Misawa. The sun has set under partly cloudy skies. The temperature is 40 degrees. I’ve bookmarked the online course in basic Japanese conversation on my computer. We have the guidebooks in our living room.

Like many other Americans, our family story includes the time of separation when our forebears left the European continent and made the journey to North America. In our case the generation that came never traveled back. They said goodbye to friends and family and never saw those people again. They forged a new and different future in a new place. Frankly, I’m glad they did. They invested in the future at deep personal cost to themselves and I am among the beneficiaries of that investment. Anticipating my daughter’s departure to a far away land, I know a bit of their feelings. And we know that our daughter and son-in-law will live in Japan for only four years and will return to the United States when this assignment is complete.

So I pray that the young family I was watching last night is able to treasure and deeply enjoy the feeling of their baby in their arms. I hope they never forget how wonderful it is. It will soon be over and they will be on to new adventures.

Copyright (c) 2016 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!