As I write this, my nephew, Kyle, is with his fiance, Tara, at a hospital about 60 miles from here welcoming to the world their first child, a little girl. I eagerly await holding little Josie in the coming days. This will be my first crack at being a great-uncle, so I want to get it right.
All new parents know that life is forever different once you take that huge leap from being a couple to being a family with children. It isn’t easy, but somehow with love and patience and hard work, we make it through challenging times and move on to days of growth and maturity and, if we are fortunate, great joy. As I’ve heard my cousin Debra say, from the time we have our children, our hearts are forever walking around outside our body.
It is easy and good to celebrate new life. I don’t mind the sound of babies crying when I’m around because I am thankful for each little life and the promise each bundle holds. If I’m in church, for example, and a very young child is noisy, so be it. I’d rather have them present and reminding us of the spectrum of life and growth than shuffled off to another room where they don’t “bother” the adults. Bother me all you want, kiddos. I’m glad you’re here.
So I am thrilled at yet another new life in the family that is arriving just one day after seeing the other newest member of the family, the new son recently born to my cousin’s daughter. New life abounds.
What is different about the birth in progress as I write this is that the event is bathed in my mind with thoughts of the baby’s paternal grandmother – my sister Stephania Jo, whom we called Jo-Jo. We lost her to cancer in 1995 when she was 40. She left behind her husband and two young boys, Eric and Kyle. Eric has since left this earth by way of a tragic car accident years ago. So as I think about Josie coming into the world, I cannot help but think about Jo-Jo. Oh, how I wish she was present to take part in this celebration of life. She would be so thrilled and she would be such a magnificent grandmother. It would be a joy to share grandparenting stories with this sweet, dear sister whom I miss so much.
For a while this afternoon, the emotion was overwhelming. I cried harder than I recall doing for many years – tears of joy and sadness. I was thankful when the sadness turned into laughter as I talked on the phone with my cousin Debra. The ending and beginning of life have ways of tugging at all of our heart strings to the max. That’s OK, but it isn’t easy. As the writer of Ecclesiastes said, there is “a time to be born, and a time to die” (3:2).
Today is a time to be born, so welcome to the world, baby Josie. You have wonderful parents and a loving extended family who will care for you in every way possible. You will be blessed by the many family members who will shower you with love all of your days. I look forward to being a small part of that extended family for many years.
And someday, when the time is right, I look forward to telling you some stories about your incredible grandmother Jo-Jo. I’m sure others will as well. You would have loved her just as she would have loved you.