A couple of weeks ago I spent three days in the hospital. I was not there for any pain I was in, nor illness, but to accompany my wife as she gave birth to our baby girl Hannah. The timing of Hannah’s birth, born February 26, could not have been more perfect for God to shower us with this blessing, as Hannah is actually the birth of our second child, the first being stillborn at twenty two weeks on March 1, 2012.
When we lost Samantha Grace on March 1 of last year it didn’t take us by surprise, as my wife’s water prematurely broke at 18 weeks, without any conceivable reason why. Dr.’s could not explain it, and we were advised of the most likely outcome, the death of our first child. Yet we held out hope that a miraculous God could put his healing hands in the womb to bring Samantha’s body to a point of being strong enough to be born outside the womb, and then hopefully survive on modern technology. However, those prayers went unanswered, or at least answered in a way that didn’t meet our deepest heart’s desire.
We went through the grieving process of shock, anger, questioning, and resolution. We also wondered if we were being punished by God in some way. If you have lost a child, or know someone who has, you know that at any age the child was lost, a person’s theology of God is certainly challenged. As one of my professors aptly put the experience and sting of death, “It isn’t the way it is was supposed to be.” But thanks be to God who in his son Jesus Christ, death has been conquered, and overcome. Romans 8:35-39 became a lifeline for me in that dark time. But darkness does not reign forever, and the Bible testifies to this.
After the loss of Samantha, our prayers for my wife being able to get pregnant were answered about a month or two into our efforts. Once we found out she was pregnant again we were thrilled, but also a bit cautious, knowing how fragile life is, learning from our own experience as well as the experience of others.
We chose the name Hannah, without knowing what the name meant, which is Grace of God. The real reason we chose it was because we liked Bible names and felt like we could understand the trials Samuel’s mother Hannah went through before conceiving him. In the Biblical narrative Hannah desperately wants to be able to have a child, but her efforts prove futile, until God who listened to her pleas, opened her womb(1 Samuel 1:1-20).
In the Hebrew language names often bear witness to a significant life experience. For example when God changes the name of Abram, to Abraham, Abraham is the plural form of his name, reflecting God’s promise to bring many descendants from his line. Sometimes the name of a person comes by experience, but also combines two words to form one name. Rachel giving birth to her son Ben-oni (named Benjamin by Jacob) is an example of this. In Hebrew ben means “son” and oni means “sorrow”, therefore “son of my sorrow” (Genesis 35: 18).
The name Hannah has comes from an adjective in the Hebrew language meaning gracious. In a very significant way this adjective, chanun, is used to describe the character of God in Psalm 112:4. Here the psalmist writes, “Light dawns in the darkness for the upright; he is gracious, merciful, and righteous.” (Psalm 112:4) Throughout the Bible “light” is used as a metaphor for God’s truth, salvation, holiness, and guidance in our lives. My wife and I certainly feel we can share in the truth of the psalmist words that God’s light has penetrated our dark time, with his graciousness in providing us with a beautiful baby girl named Hannah.
Our Hannah was born nearly a month early, yet three days from the loss of our first child Samantha. I’ve questioned the timing of Hannah’s birth and wondered if her birth three days before March 1 meant it was a sign from God. Though I don’t know with certainty that is the reason for her early arrival, I certainly know my wife and I have experienced God’s grace in our lives.