In college I felt God calling me to the pastorate. Frances told me then that she had felt called to be a pastor’s wife since high school. She was always a step or two ahead of me. Thus, when it came to my career path, she was ready to go with me anywhere, even to Louisville, Kentucky. We loaded up a small U-Haul in August of 1978 and headed for seminary. I took her away from home.

That meant leaving her mother, Bobbie. This was very hard for Fu. They had been through so much together and were extraordinarily close. Unfortunately, as the next three years unfolded, it got harder. 

In January of 1980 came the news that we were expecting our first child.  She was so excited. I was so uncertain. Natural childbirth was the new thing, so we signed up for a Lamaze class and started preparing for the coming of our son. Those classes scared me to death. I tried to hide that from her, but she saw right through me.  I didn’t know how we were going to pay for it all. She would smile at me and say, “It will all work out.”

Of course, we didn’t know it was a boy. This was before the days of detailed sonograms. But we did know the baby was due in late September. She and her mother were so excited. Bobbie was planning to come visit early that summer and then be back in the fall for the birth.

The summer of 1980 was one of the hottest on record in Louisville, KY. Pregnant and growing, Fu could not get cool. We bought a small air conditioner on credit from Sears and put it in the window of the main room of our unairconditioned, turn-of-the-century, third floor apartment. By August I moved the mattress off our bed and onto the living room floor so the air could blow directly on her. She was still hot!

Bobbie did not get to come visit us early that summer. She was having health issues. In late August she was admitted to the hospital and they discovered she had ovarian cancer. In surgery, they opened her up and closed her back. The doctor said if chemo didn’t help, she might not live another two months.

Fu was panic-stricken. We asked her doctor about traveling to Mississippi. He said no. We asked him to induce labor early. He said no. We had to wait. Our boy didn’t help in the matter, either. He came a week late. But thankfully, he was healthy and strong. When he was nine days old, I put him and his mother on a plane to Mississippi.

David was born at Baptist East, the newest hospital in Louisville, Kentucky. She went into labor on a Saturday afternoon. Our closest friends, Stephen and Karen, went with us to the hospital, but they had to leave early to travel to a weekend pastorate. 

The only time I can remember Fu cursing at me was during labor. I was trying to coach her to breathe as we were taught in the birthing classes. She looked at me and said, “Just shut the hell up!” 

I backed away in shock. The nurse suggested I step out into the waiting room and get a sip of water. The waiting room was packed full of people. I looked around the room.

You could tell the expectant fathers. They had a nervousness about them, a nervousness they tried to cover with laughter. You could also tell the expectant grandparents. They looked happy and excited. There were a few children in the room, who looked bored because they had to be there and not at all excited about the intrusion coming into their lives.

But they were there, waiting for the miracle of new life. They were there as family to support the mother-to-be who was doing all the work in the labor unit.

Fu and I, we were alone. There was no one in the waiting room for us. It’s not that we lacked friends. We were seminary students. It was a Saturday night, and our friends were gone to weekend churches. We were surrounded by people, but we were by ourselves. Her mother was supposed to be there with her, but Bobbie was in the hospital in Jackson. Her Grandmother was in Jackson helping Bobbie. My mother was coming to help but would not be there for a few days.

I went back to Fu’s bedside. I didn’t tell her anything about the waiting room. I dialed back the Lamaze coaching a bit and we focused, together, on the work to be done.  

We celebrate the birth of our first child, David, just the two of us, along with a few kind nurses. There was unbelievable joy, and at the same time tears of sadness. 

In the recovery room, all the other women had used pain killers and they were out cold. Frances had given birth all natural. (She would do that two more times.) Since the nursery was full, they allowed David to stay with us in recovery for hours. She began to nurse him. A kind-hearted attendant ran a phone to her bed, and we called her mother’s hospital room. David cried on the phone for Bobbie. I think Fu pinched him.

There we were, Mutt and Fu with little baby David, just the three of us. I made a decision that night that helped us through our many moves. Home was wherever we were together. That night it was in the recovery room of Baptist East Hospital in Louisville, KY. We were together. We were home.

By God’s grace, her mother lived for two more years. She got to see us move back to Mississippi and to hold her first grandson. Fu got to spend precious time with her mother. It meant that Fu would be in Jackson with our son while I remained in the Delta pastoring our little church, but it was ok. I knew she was where she wanted and needed to be. I also knew she would be back with me, and that we would be home again.

I’m trying to figure out now what home is without Fu.

Categories faith, family, GriefTags , ,

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