“Thank you, Jesus!” she cried,
her husband gripping her hands
as she bore down with one last great shudder,
pushing their third child, their first daughter,
into my lap.
Her prayer blessed this routine labor,
which spilled forth in blood and amnion on my feet.
At that moment, I murmured by own prayer of gratitude:
thanking God for a smooth delivery of this healthy child
after nine months of her troubling, vague symptoms.
Her husband, a hemophiliac who lived with chronic pain
from painful joints that swelled with blood with the slightest strain,
necessitating frequent infections of clotting factor.
He often was feverish, felt irritable and depressed,
their two young children were too often ill.
No test revealed a reason, no diagnosis explained their misery.
They tried special diets and homeopathy,
yet nothing helped, so they and their church prayed for healing.
This new baby, robust, hearty,
seemed a sign from God
all would be restored,
yet soon she too suffered,
failing to gain weight and strength.
One morning I took a call from the blood bank:
a new test for a virus confirmed
this father of three children was HIV positive.
I sat at my desk, stunned and unbelieving,
horrified at what came next:
His wife and two younger children also infected,
the virus passing through lovemaking,
through placental circulation,
poisoning breast milk meals.
There was no treatment for this killer
that claimed young lives and healthy bodies.
What was left was prayer.
Their church rallied around them
as the virus took away
one by one by one by one,
leaving their young son,
spared by inexplicable grace.
His parents, knowing what fate awaited them and him,
continued to pray
in their gratitude,
in their submission,
out of their sacrifice until the very end:
“Thank you, Jesus.”