A young couple stood ahead of me in the checkout line at our neighborhood drug store; the husband had a tight grip on a baby carrier. I inherited from my father (and his father) a lack of reticence so I did what I often do ̶ I initiated a conversation.
“May an old man request a peek at your baby?” I asked. The proud young father grinned and said, “Sure.”
A beautiful infant was sleeping soundly in the baby carrier.
“A boy?” I asked.
The young mother spoke up. “Three weeks,” she advised.
“What’s his name?”
Mom spoke again. “Hayden.”
“As in Hayden Fry?” I queried.
This time the dad responded. “Yep,” he said with a broad grin.
“He’s a handsome guy.”
The young parents said “thanks” in unison.
As a man grows older he becomes more and more charmed by babies. On this day my heart was still healing from two experiences in preceding days.
Three days earlier I had attended the funeral of a newborn. A young man in our Wednesday morning men’s Bible study had tearfully shared several weeks earlier that doctors had determined that the baby his wife was carrying had grave developmental problems. Doctors suggested terminating the pregnancy but the young parents wanted to carry the child to full term in the belief that God could work a miracle.
Our study group prayed for the couple and their child right then and there and we had been praying for the family ever since.
The pregnancy went to full term and a week earlier the young mom delivered a little girl who died shortly after birth. They named her Victoria Grace.
Victoria Grace’s memorial service was deeply moving. The young pastor acknowledged this was the first time he had officiated at a funeral for an infant. I had a lump in my throat several times.
My heart was still tender two days later when Julie and I drove my mother to a cemetery in northern Iowa’s Kossuth County where my oldest brother is buried. My parents lost him, just one hour old, in May of 1950 when we lived near Titonka. The relative who had faithfully put flowers on my brother’s grave each year died recently and my mother was concerned. She did not want her child forgotten.
After Julie and I put flowers on our late spouses’ graves in Hamilton County we drove north to Titonka and helped my mother put flowers on the grave of her second child. “I think of little Duane every day,” Mom told my wife.
My mother also put flowers on the graves of my grandparents (her in-laws) and on the grave of a niece that died shortly after birth 60 years ago.
I was only 28-months-old when Duane was born and have no memories of him. My parent’s love for this child that they had for only an hour has spoken to my heart many times over the years. Attending Victoria Grace’s funeral and witnessing the intense sadness of her parents helped me understand my mother’s heart as she tenderly placed bright yellow flowers on Duane’s grave.
Witnessing the pride and joy of the young parents of handsome little Hayden at the drug store a day later brought the matter full circle. I, of course, did not reveal to Hayden’s parents what was going on in my heart. I wished them well and encouraged them to take good care of Hayden. They assured me they would.
It has been said, “There is no footprint too small to leave an imprint on this world.” I would add, “There is no footprint too small to leave an imprint on our hearts.”