By John Thomas Tuft

Mary and Joe were having a miracle baby. At the age of 30, Mary was diagnosed with breast cancer. Treatment involved a double mastectomy followed by chemotherapy and radiation treatment. Despite all of that, at age 33, one day on the exam table with the bright light in her eyes, a shadow of a doctor leaned over to announce to her that she was with child. The path forward through the pregnancy would be difficult and fraught with danger, but there was a positive chance that the child, a boy, if carried to term would thrive and bear the weight of his parent’s expectations on his shoulders. Mary would not be able to suckle the child, but in this fullness of time, mother’s milk could be purchased on the internet if so desired. And so, Mary and Joe went home to their sheep farm in the foothills where they raised grass fed hormone free lambs for meat.

Things progressed for the next nine months, the doctor keeping a close watch on the pregnancy. When the time was nearing for the baby to be delivered, one night Joe was in the far fields looking after a pregnant ewe experiencing difficulty when suddenly a loud noise surrounded him, making the ground shake and a bright light blinded him. On his knees beside the ewe, Joe watched as an air ambulance helicopter swooped low over the earth, then disappeared into the firmament in the direction of the general hospital in the city beyond the mountains, leaving him fearful and anxious over Mary’s well-being. And he made haste to return to the house, only to find Mary groaning in the pangs of labor. They set out on their journey for the child to be born, rattling toward town in an old Volkswagen Beetle.

When the couple reached the hospital in town, they were told that the rooms were all filled and besides, their insurance was inadequate, and they should have known that before coming here. The only recourse was to make the perilous journey over the mountains to the city hospital because they had to take even indigents. Mary was tired and distressed, but kept it all to herself as the realities of motherhood set in. As they traveled the mountain roads, they passed the scene of an accident. An old school bus, repurposed for a traveling carnival of clowns, collided with a car, causing horrific damage. The flashing strobes of all the emergency vehicles were like a hundred Christmas trees lighting the tragic scene of damage and three dazed clowns wandering around in disarray, not knowing what direction to go in next. Mary and Joe, being of good heart, invited the three clowns to squeeze into the back seat and they would get them into the city.

And it came to pass, Mary’s blood pressure soared dangerously high as her body struggled with all the stresses added to her childbirth. The clowns insisted that they drive straight to the hospital. Upon arrival, Mary was placed in a labor and delivery suite, right down the hall from the NICU. As the nurses worked to prepare the way for the new child, they chatted in hushed tones. A pregnant woman had been rushed there from the scene of the accident, her premature baby struggling to live with a greatly weakened heart down the hall in neonatal intensive care. Mary cried out as her son’s head crowned through the birth canal. The doctor urged a big push, push, keep pushing…then the room fell eerily silent. The umbilical cord was around the baby’s neck, cutting off the supply of oxygen to his brain.

The doctor said, “His heart is still beating, but he won’t survive long. I’m sorry.” Mary, through her fear and tears, in a trembling, but strong voice, said, “Joshua. His name is Joshua. He is my gift to the world.” And she and Joe looked at each other with a love that hearkens all angels to bend near the earth to behold. Then Mary nodded and Joe spoke. “We will watch with him. But when he is gone, when his heart can no longer beat, take it and give it to the other child so she can live.” And all those who heard of this gift were amazed and came from near and far in the hospital to witness this journey into the sacred.

As the clock struck midnight, the chaplain was summoned to the NICU. When he walked in, he came upon the sacred creche. In the low light, in the corner, sat a bassinet. Mary and Joe were bent low over it, whispering words of love for their only son. A flock of nurses and assistants and techs in their scrubs were gathered, bearing silent witness in the night. Nearby, in their crazy clothes, the three clowns knelt in obeisance, bearing their treasures of peace, hope, and silly. And the angel? The angel was in the operating room being prepped for a new heart, ready for bearing the joy of the world. At long last, Mary picked up her child, swaddled in the soft blanket of a newborn, and sang to him a song…a song of magnificent pain and longing…that echoes yet. For all who hear it shall never forget…

Words are magic and writers are wizards.