By Sue Elvis
We were anxious for Thomas to be baptised as soon as possible after his birth but the sacrament had to be delayed until he had been placed on a ventilator in the neonatal intensive care unit, and his condition had been assessed as stable. By this time, I had been moved to the maternity unit and it was Andy who arranged for the priest to come and baptise our son.
Father C placed a small white garment over our newborn baby, carefully avoiding all the wires and the tubes. And then with a sprinkle of holy water, together with the words, “I baptise you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”, Thomas’ soul was filled with God’s life. He was given two Godmothers: my sister Vicky and my friend Cheri, and we all prayed that they’d be given the opportunity to guide and care for him here on earth. We all hoped his body would become as strong with life as his soul. But it was not to be. After a fleeting moment of life, just 28 hours after being born, Thomas left us and his Godparents, and joined God in Heaven.
Cheri was already the Godmother of our daughter Charlotte, who was two when Thomas died. We all realised Charlotte would grow up without any memories of her little brother. Thinking about this, Cheri decided to create a special bond between her two Godchildren, to hold them together despite the lack of memories. She wanted to give Charlotte something very special that would remind her that Thomas is alive in Heaven praying for his big sister.
When we went to the ‘viewing’ at the funeral home to see Thomas one last time before his funeral, Cheri brought along her gift for Charlotte. It was a delicate gold bracelet with a name engraved upon it. It was going to be Charlotte’s bracelet but the name on it was ‘Thomas’.
Cheri cradled Thomas in her arms, placed the bracelet on our son and we photographed Godmother and Godson for the first and last time. Then she gave the bracelet to me for safekeeping: “Now Charlotte has a relic of her little brother which she can keep forever.”
The bracelet is not an everyday piece of jewellery. I keep it in my jewellery box and Charlotte wears it on very special occasions… like on her First Holy Communion Day when Thomas’ prayers joined ours as she received Our Lord for the first time.
Last September at the annual homeschooling camp, one of the fathers gave the girls a talk about relics. Mr D is well known for his interesting and stimulating talks on the faith, and I knew my girls would enjoy his class.
Charlotte came running up to me as soon as the class finished, eager to share what she’d learnt: “We learnt all about relics today! We learnt how a relic can be a part of a saint like his hair or a bone or it can be something that belonged to and touched a saint like a habit… or it can be something that has been touched to a relic of a saint. And I told Mr D I have a relic of Thomas: Thomas’ bracelet that touched him and is now mine. Can I take it tomorrow and show everyone?” And so the precious bracelet was once again removed from my jewellery box and shared with the girls of Mr D’s class.
Charlotte is now 13. I guess I could give her the bracelet but she is quite content to leave it in my care. She knows she would be very upset if it ever got lost and she isn’t quite ready to take that risk upon herself. But one day the bracelet will be all hers.
The bracelet is treasured because it is associated with our child. It reminds us that Thomas is in the presence of God where he can intercede for us. Our son, our saint in Heaven, is praying for the special people in his life: his parents, his Godmothers, his sister Charlotte and all his family. And that is a real blessing.
Thank you Cheri, my dear friend. You used that short moment of time we had with Thomas to turn a bracelet into a relic, a precious bond between brother and sister.
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