Today is the 11th birthday of my youngest brother Benjamin. He was, what you would call, a miracle baby.
You may argue that every baby is a miracle baby, and you may have evidence to back up your claim. But that doesn't change mine.
On April 19th in 2000, on a rainy morning where the grass was a brilliant green and the trees were still stark and dark, like a cowlick that won’t stay down, two of our teenagers left the house shouting and running, laughing and gunning an engine.
In fifteen minutes one brother was dead, lying in the middle of the highway less than a mile from our house. Traffic was stopped on both sides; lights spun, sirens blared and our brother, the best brother, we had always said, was lying misshapen on the wet blacktop. Death never comes conveniently, but it always comes memorably.
And for one week our family, who was beginning to fracture already, we banded. We gathered close, hundreds of people came through our door, and we clung. We clung fiercely for those weeks. My smallest brothers slept in bed with me, curled close, and I laid awake at night praying that God would never take them, not ever, because losing a part of yourself once hurts enough for a lifetime.
But it did not take long for those small fractures in the togetherness of us to spread. Death, when it comes, puts a pressure that even the strongest glass cannot withstand.
So it is a miracle that my mother found herself to be pregnant a few months later. It is first a miracle because she was in her forties. It is second a miracle because she and my dad were hardly on speaking terms. But it is a miracle most of all because that conception happened in such a way that that baby was due to come on April 19, 2001—one year from the day Andrew died.
The Lord gives and the Lord takes away—but not always in that order.
Sometimes the Lord takes away and then the Lord gives.
We have always been small babies, petite, tiny, fragile—all of us. But nothing prepared us for the smallness of Benjamin when he arrived, because—as today is his birthday—he came two months early.
When he was born my hand could cup his entire body and I am known to have small hands. We could not touch his skin, so fragile and thin, translucent, like a bad burn. He was kept in an incubator for weeks, and we, who had never concerned ourselves with weights and measures smaller than pounds or halves, suddenly knew the worth of a gram.
2200 grams. This was the target. But when you are born less than 1000 grams, this is half your life.
We watched that incubator with long hope.
And life, it seemed, was put on hold.
The fracture was complete at this point, divisions were deep, and we were all living separate lives, but in that NICU, we were a family. We had witnessed a miracle and a miracle can go a long way—I held on to that belief for a long, long time.
I still do, in some ways.
The day we brought Benjamin home, all I can remember was how cold it was. Not for us, maybe, but how cold it must be to be apart first from your mother’s womb and now the incubator. We are a warm family still, withstanding the fracture, but even we cannot grow a child when it is outside the safest places in the world.
Benjamin has never known our parents to be together. Half his life he lived with Mom and half his life has been with Dad. He has never lived in a home with all of us together and I’ll be honest—I worry about that sometimes.
I worry that the miracle baby will grow into a boy and man who never knew the security that comes of two parents together and older siblings who were never close enough to make Sunday dinner a priority.
But I’ll be honest—I don’t worry too much.
Sometimes I’m overwhelmed by the length to which God goes to save us and to restore creation in ways we call miracles, but He originally just called good. And when I remember that I stop worrying because God cares about due dates and death dates and He doesn’t mix them up, not ever.
Andrew David didn't die too soon and Benjamin David didn’t arrive too soon. And healing, when it comes for this fractured world, will be on time too.
That’s the beauty of birthdays. I think. They’re right on time.
Happy 11th birthday, Benjamin David Ferguson. You are a miracle in every sense of the word and I love you.