Sunday, January 3, 2010

Dear Abby

Dear Abby,

Today we blessed you--a tradition in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, where a priesthood holder (typically the father of the newborn) presents his child before God and before his congregation, and states the name by which the child shall be known upon the records of the Church and then proceeds to pronounce a blessing on the child.  It's a beautiful and tender thing. By the time you are able to read this post, you will have witnessed many such blessings.

Big sister, Emma, holding Abigail at home after church

And though I am quite certain that your spirit comprehended the experience and the goings-on of the day, I wanted to record some of my thoughts from the day so that someday you'll know what happened.  And while there were no (visible) heavenly manifestions during or after the blessing, I suspect that when you read about this someday that you will receive the subtly powerful confirmation that the priesthood is a real power.

I looked forward to today with some angst.  We hadn't decided to take you to church yet, as we are trying to desperately to keep you away from large crowds.  If we can make it through this winter without you catching the flue, we're home free.  We're still afraid that you're recovering body may not take well to a bout of RSV or the flue.  But even though we were nervous about taking you to church, we wanted to perfrom this blessing before you started walking.  We thought about just doing it at home, but somehow that didn't feel right.  We wanted to share this experience with our congregation, the Hillcrest 8th Ward, who had exercised so much faith in your behalf. 

So we decided to bring you to church today, the first Sunday of the month--the Sunday where such blessings typically occur.  Our plan was to keep you safely cocooned in your car seat, then take you just before the blessing, and have Mom leave with you just after the meeting.

Do you think Abigail gets enough love in our house?

I didn't expect the emotion I felt as I stepped foot into our church building today.  It hit me.  There I was in a building where a fast for you had been consummated, a building where I have spent almost every Sunday for the last 13 years, a building that for a bit of time, I wasn't totally sure you would ever see.  My throat suddenly seemed to swell, and my eyes started to moisten,  just as they did when we left your siblings in the hallway at Primary Children's or when we walked beside you at Lucile Packard, as the surgical team rolled you and your bed from the NICU to the operating room. 

On both of those occassions I tried to conceal those emotions as best I could, trying to not look anyone in the eye, and just marching toward an open pew.  I struggled through the opening hymn, after which I leaned over to your Mom and said, "I am not going to be able to make it through this."  I'm going to be a blubbering, bawling idiot up there.

However, they were happy tears. They were grateful tears.  They were humble tears.

After the opening hymn and prayer and the obligatory announcements and ward business, we were invited to begin the blessing.  Mom had already taken you out of your car seat, and had handed you to me.  There you were in your simple and elegant white dress, a whiteness that symbolizes the purity that defines you.  I took all nine pounds of you from Mom, cradled you carefully, and walked up to the front of the chapel, where several members of the family met us to assist in the blessing.

Abby was excited to be at church today as well.

As you will have seen by now, when we bless a baby the father or person giving the blessing stands in a circle of people (typically with family and/or friends). Each member of the circle rests his left hand upon the shoulder of the person next to him, and with his right hand he joins the other members of the circle in holding the baby.  That circle and the physical unity of its members has symbolic significance, just as most elements that make up such ordinances do.  Today that circle represented lots of things:  the love that your uncles, cousins and grandpas have for you; the fact that many people will join hands to bear you up and lift you throughout your life; and the fact that many loved ones will unify their faith and their prayers that you might become the person that God wants you to become.

Standing next to me in the circle was your older (and only) brother Jeffrey.  Though Jeffrey isn't old enough to hold the Melchizedek Priestood, he stood in the circle to hold the microphone so that Dad's voice could be amplified to the congregagtion.  By the time that you undergo your next priesthood ordinance--baptism at the age of eight--Jeffrey will likely be serving an mission somewhere in the world, and he won't be there. I am grateful that Jeffrey, who loves you with a tenderness and a maturity that is not typical of a 12-year old boy, got to participate.

As is typically of your father who is burdened with a mild speech impedement--a blessing for which I will always be grateful (it keeps me more humble than I would otherwise be)--I began the blessing with a bit of a stammer, but as it progressed, and as the spirit grew thicker, that stammer disappeared.  Every time I give a public blessing or a talk, I worry about that stammer beforehand. I worry how bad it will be; I worry about whether it will get in the way of me being able to communicate what needs to be said.  I worried about that this week, and I prayed that it wouldn't get in the way.  And it didn't.

Nothing like those big blues. You should see her eyelashes as well.

I spoke about your heart--a heart that has been repaired both because of the expertise of skilled surgeons, nurses, and doctors, and because of the faith of many.  I blessed you that your heart would not only remain physically strong, but that it would be spiritually strong, and that it would a receptacle of purity throughout your life.  I reminded you that your life so far has inspired others to be better, and I blessed you that your future actions, words, and thoughts would continue to inspire people to become more like Christ.  Finally, I blessed you that someday that you would be able to find a companion like I have in your Mom, someone with whom you can kneel across the altar of the Temple, and with a pure heart and clean hands, be married for eternity.

Abigail, there was something else that I didn't mention in your blessing that I would like to close this letter with.  There are three women that I hope you will emulate.  The first is your mother. I hope you will always look into her eyes with that same gaze of love, wonder, and trust with which you now shower upon her.  Your mother is a beautiful person on every level.  Your mother doesn't appreciate or even understand the depth of character that she has given your siblings and is giving you know.  She is a compassionate, caring, and selfless person.  Yes, she isn't perfect.  She will probably even teach you a few bad habits like your father and all parents do.  But she will teach you an infinitely greater amount more of good habits.  Most importantly, your mother will love you unconditionally and will serve you unconditionally.  You will feel that.  Please continue to love her back.

We continue to be proud parents

There are two other women that I want you emulate--both of whom you were named after.  The first is Abigail Adams, who is not only one of the greatest American women, but one of the greatest Americans. Abigail loved her husband passionately, but she also loved true principles passionately. She loved her country.  She understood the concept of duty, and she understood that doing what is right is not always convenient and that it is sometimes expensive.  Primarily self-educated, she never stopped learning, reading, or writing.   She enjoyed discussing big ideas and was never afraid tangle with the brightest of her age.  She knew who she was and the confidence that came from knowing who she was made her a powerful women.   I pray that you too, Abigail, will learn who you are.  You are a miracle.

Finally, you are also named after your great-great-great Aunt, Anna Rosenkilde, affectionally referred to by the patients and staff of Primary Children's Hospital as "Mama Rose."  I don't know enough yet about Mama Rose, and I intend to study more about her. But what I do know about Mama Rose is that she served people passionately.  I believe she actually lived at the hospital for a good period of time.  She committed her life to the care of others.  She understands what all truly happy people understand--that happiness is found when you stop thinking so much about your own happiness and worry about the happiness of others.

I love you, Abigail.  Though I gave the blessing today, I have received far greater blessings because of your life.  Good night.