I haven’t been to a baptism for many years although when I was younger I went to several. Squidge isn’t baptised as neither me nor the Northern One are religious; I stopped believing when I was a teenager and the Northern One is such a staunch aethist that I think he might actually burn if he went into a church.
I remember the look of horror on his face when, a few days after Squidge was born it occurred to him that me and my brother have both been baptised and therefore it was possible that I would want to have Squidge baptised.
Both of us respect the religions and religious choices of others, unless they hurt others. Although we won’t bring Squidge up to be religious, should he choose to adopt a religion when he’s older we would fully support him but religion is just not something that is part of our lives.
Sometimes I miss God.
Before this week I hadn’t taken part in a baptism on the unit before. It’s something that we can arrange because the baby is likely to be in hospital for a while or because it’s a matter of urgency.
We have access to a Chaplin 24/7 and a baptism box on the unit containing a bowl for holy water, a wooden cross, a baptism register and certificates and an order of service. We set the necessary things up on a white lace cloth on a trolly with wheels so that iit can be taken to the baby’s cotside.
In this case the paarents want the baby baptised before he dies so the Chaplin arrives as a matter of urgency. He greets the parents and checks that he has been given the correct names for the baby. Although he doesn’t know these parents or their son I feel that he wants to do everything that he can to try and ease their suffering, to give them something to hold onto in the dark days ahead.
He opens his bible.
He’s a tall man with big hands but he’s so gentle with the baby, his voice is strong but quiet. He reflects the gravity of the situation but he is calm and centred as opposed to sombre. I stand with the parents, automatically clasping my hands and bowing my head even though it’s something I’ve not done in years. The Chaplin blesses the baby and asks God to receive his innocent soul, to watch over him and to take care of him for eternity.
He ends the simple ceremony with the Lord’s Prayer and the words I have said hundreds of times spring to my lips.
“Our Father who art in Heaven”
I pray to a God that I’m not sure I believe in but I pray all the same.
“Hallowed be thy Name”
I pray that their faith will bring comfort to these parents
“Thy Kingdom come, thy Will be done”
That it will help them to carry on, to get up in the morning and carry on living.
“On Earth as it is in Heaven”
That they may see their son’s death as part of a wider plan.
“Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespassses”
I don’t know who or what I’m praying to, whether I believe anyone will hear me and if they do, whether they have any interest in my words.
“As we forgive those who trespass against us”
The parents stand with their hands through the portholes of the incubator, trying to do everything they can for their baby before he leaves this life.
“For thine is the Kingdom, the Power and the Glory”
The Chaplin finishes the prayer and closes his Bible. He gives his condolances to the parents, really meaning it even though this is the first time he has met them or their son.
“Forever and Ever”
The parents are tearful but calm and resigned. They have comittted their son to God, believing that He will look after their little boy when they are no longer able to. There is nothing more they can do.