Yes and No
Once, several years ago, I read, “One day, you will pick up your child for the last time.” I think it’s one of the saddest sentences I’ve ever read. I’ve returned to that thought many times over the years. Lately, I’ve been thinking about it quite a bit.
“What,” I asked myself, “when faced with this kind of somber truth, ought a melancholic to do?”
The answer seemed clear enough. Follow that well-trod path I have walked many times before: utter denial of reality and a staunch refusal to accept difficult truths, followed by a dash of suppression.
Well-trod indeed. Perhaps we’ve seen each other on this trail and waved hello.
And so, I had just taken the first step onto Denial Lane when another thought occurred to me. “Yes and no.” The philosopher’s answer to every question.
“One day, you will pick up your child for the last time.”
Yes and no.
Then I remembered exactly that. A quote from a chapter in C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity, entitled simply “Hope.” He wrote, “Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water.”
I think every parent has a natural desire to pick up and carry their child. When they are infants, we naturally desire to pick them up when they are crying. As little children, we pick them up as they run into our arms. Notice that parents don’t merely hug their children, but they lift them up completely into their arms. Why? It’s as if we are telling our child that the very earth itself cannot touch them.
Not while we carry them.
To lift up our children so that they are free of harm from this world. That’s the desire—and no good desire is ever in vain.
Two of the most moving stories in the Gospels are about paralytics who are healed by Jesus. In the first, Jesus asks the poor man if he wished to be healed. He replies that he has no one to carry him into the healing waters. “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool.” The second paralytic had four people willing to help him. These four literally ripped the roof off the house where Jesus stayed, and lowered him below. Jesus tells the man that his sins are forgiven. After this, he heals the man’s body. Body and soul. In a word, the man’s friends carry the whole person to Our Lord.
The lesson is this: God abandons no one. But for those who are loved by friends and family, God wills that they too share in His Divine plan. He wills and desires that many are carried to Him. These four prayed Our Lord to heal their friend. They bore their friend on their shoulders, yes, but much more did they bear him in their hearts through their prayer.
“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.”
To carry our children’s burdens to Our Lord in prayer, indeed to carry them to Our Lord in prayer, through the roof of Heaven itself, this is how our desire for our children is ultimately fulfilled. For, the first time I carried each of my children, it wasn’t in my arms, it was when I traced the sign of the cross over them as they reposed under their mother’s heart, waiting to be born into the world. Each one I carried to Our Lord. Each one I have carried every day since. Yes, some I never had the chance to carry. Or rather, yes and no. No good desire is ever in vain. So I have carried them. And do carry them. Each day.
“Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool.” Children, you need never say that. Your father and mother will always carry you to the pool—the ocean—of Mercy.
“One day, you will pick up your child for the last time.” Yes and no. The truth is, dear children, the first time was the last time; your mother and I simply never put you down. Before we ever saw you, before we ever heard you, before we even held you, we carried you.