Nine years ago today, my wife gave birth to our son, Grant Alexander Carpenter. Grant died in my arms four and a half hours later. Sounds like a tragedy, right? Far from it... instead it was one of the greatest spiritual experiences I will ever have.
When my wife had her first ultrasound at 5 months pregnant, we found out that our 'coming event' had a very bad case of Trisomy 18, also known as Edwards Syndrome. His complications included an underdeveloped heart, spina bifida, and under developed limbs and joints. We found out that most infants with Trisomy 18 do not make it to birth, and of those who survive birth, none have been known to live beyond 14 years. We didn't know what to expect. I know families who have special-needs children, and my heart goes out to them for what they go through - what they sacrifice, the pain they feel for their child, the compulsory change in lifestyle.
When the day came for Grant to be born - by appointment, labor was induced under these circumstances - it was pretty somber entering the hospital. The medical staff was fantastic - they were professional and upbeat, yet they knew our situation and didn't act giddy and excited.
When Grant was born, his physical defects were obvious. At first I didn't know what to think. Should I be glad for his live birth? Should I be sad for his defects? Should I feel empathy for my wife, who would suffer through this more than I would? It was somewhat surreal. UltimatelyI just treated it like a normal birth.
Knowing that time with Grant might be short. I took pictures of him. But before that, I took care of some most important business...
Our doctor was a member of the church, a holder of the priesthood. My father-in-law is a sealer in the temple - he was there at the hospital. My father was late getting there and we couldn't take the chance and wait for him. So we took Grant in our arms right there in the hospital room, my father-in-law, Dr. Linnerson and myself, and I gave Grant his name and blessing. In the blessing, I told him that his time on earth was short, and that he had come to us only to gain a physical body, then to return home to his Heavenly Father. I commended him to his Father and ended the blessing. At that moment I felt that our hospital room was packed with people. My eyes could only see a half-dozen of them. But I knew, and felt, the presence of angels, there waiting to take our celestial son back home. It was the most incredible feeling - the veil between earth and eternity was so thin that I could literally feel the presence and love of many that I could not see.
Instead of Grant's short life being a hospital tragedy, it was an incredible spiritual experience, a profound teaching moment. I learned more about the Kingdom of God through that experience than I ever could anywhere else. The only time I have felt that same feeling was when I was at my own father's bedside when he drew his last breath. Another thin-veil experience. Knowing I have a son waiting for me there gives me added determination to 'make it back'.