When Patrick and Lillian turned up for their scheduled scan in Lillian’s fourth month of pregnancy with their first child, little did they expect the news that was to follow. The doctor told the newly expecting couple that the baby was not growing properly. The head was abnormally large, the brain stem was not growing and hydrocephalus was also suspected. In light of the bad news and the lack of brain development, the doctor recommended that the couple consider aborting the baby.

Abortion was Never an Option

However, for Patrick and Lillian, this option was out of the question right from the start.

The couple had support to help them deal with this new reality and adjust their expectations around parenthood. They went to a Professor in the National University Hospital, who while sadly confirming the initial diagnosis, was supportive of the couple’s decision to see the pregnancy through.

Their Church Community Gave Invaluable Support

“Our friends prayed with us,” says Patrick, “and this really helped us through. We had decided at that point to leave it all in God’s hands. We knew He had a plan for us. It wasn’t the plan we had wanted, but we trusted in God’s plan.”

“There were happy moments too. John Paul was very active in the womb. We could feel him moving and ‘see’ his movement,” shared Lillian.

Welcoming an Angel on Earth

Their baby, who they named John Paul, was born on 21 April 1996, and they were told that nothing could be done for him but to take him home and wait for him to pass on. Not knowing how much time John Paul had, the couple baptised him that day.

The couple made the most of the time they had with him, treasuring every day beyond the two weeks they were told he would live. Lillian was grateful to their church community, who came to visit them every day to lend their support and to pray: “It was a difficult time, but kindness from people around brought hope. All these acts told us that God was journeying with us.”

As short as it was, his life made a difference.

Building a Close Bond in a Short 50 Days

“Although the doctors said he didn’t have a brain and couldn’t respond to stimulus around him, he did respond to me.” Patrick says. He felt a very close bonding with his son and made the most of the time he spent with him, holding him, feeding him and bathing him in the 50 days John Paul remained with them.

When he passed away on 10 June 1996, the couple knew that they wouldn’t have done anything differently if they had had the chance to do things again. His life was short but precious.

John Paul’s Impact

“We believe we can’t interfere in God’s plan,” says Lillian. “God is faithful to us. We don’t know what plan He had for John Paul, but we take comfort that John Paul helped those who came to see him. He also helped to strengthen our marriage and our faith in God. I’m comforted that he is now with God.”

Patrick and Lillian went on to have two more children, John Paul’s younger siblings, Justin, who is now 20 and Joan, 17. John Paul would have been 22 years old today. The family continues to celebrate his life and take comfort in the fact that, as short as it was, his life made a difference.

This story was first published on the Archdiocesan Commission for the Family’s website.
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