I know that some people think hospices are about giving up on life. A place of defeat. But in reality, they are about living life to its natural end with courage and dignity in a community where the value of peaceful endings is recognised. But what's that like for parents of a newborn? How do you deal with that? There was no map, no manual that could help us, but something wonderful happened while we were there, something that we shall cherish always. I don't think it could have happened anywhere else.
Through all the various emotions of the previous nine months, I hadn't expected that I'd feel proud. I hadn't expected that strangers would say nice things about Margaret. Some people might even have thought her life not worth the wait because she was going to die anyway. They might have pitied us.
But in the hospice, as we carried Margaret down the corridor, a man came over and gazed down at our little bundle. "She's so beautiful," he said wonderingly, adding: "She's perfect." Not "I'm so sorry she's dying."
He didn't seem like the kind of man who would have gone out of his way in normal circumstances to coo over a newborn. But here was different. We were all here for a reason.
A woman walking behind him looked straight at me and said: "She's a gift – a real gift." The words had weight. The weight almost overwhelmed me. I nodded through a sudden blinding rain of tears. And so we continued our slow walk through the corridor to our room – bowed down but grateful.
All mothers sooner or later feel pride and I did then. For the first time and the last time.
There would be no other moment like that – no pride in scholarly or sporting achievement, no pride in her girlhood or her coming-of-age, no frivolities of planning a wedding, none of those deep heart-to-hearts shared between parent and child.
This was it. You take what is on offer. You don't reject a gift, even if it's not the gift you expected.
It was the most beautiful experience that I would never wish upon anyone else. Strangers had gone out of their way to tell our dying daughter that she was beautiful. What more was there to say? She was beautiful.
It's a beautiful reflection. Read it all here.