In the light of all of the tragic events surrounding the death of Alfie Evans, I want to share with you a picture of my uncle, James Howard Jones, which was taken in 1916 in Springfield, Illinois, right after he was born dead at St. John’s Hospital in Springfield, Illinois. He was over 9 pounds, and my grandmother was a very small woman. Labor was difficult and obstetrics was not very advanced at that time. He was big, and the birth canal for my grandmother was very small, and he didn’t make it through delivery. There was an attempt at home delivery (which was the custom at the time), but when there was difficulty she was taken to St. John’s Hospital. I remember years later my grandmother recounted that she knew that when he quit moving, he had died. It was my great grandmother, Mary Margaret Waters, who insisted that the baby be clothed in a white gown (like a baptismal gown) so that my grandmother – who was very ill because of this – would at least be able to see him. This idea was quite ahead of its time! I found these pictures in the closet of what we used to call the “front bedroom” of my grandparents’ home. I took the pictures to my grandparents when I discovered them (I was probably about 10 years old at the time), and I could see that although there was sadness in my grandparents’ eyes after many years, their son James was still a part of their lives. My aunt was born a year later in l917 and later became a Dominican Sister in Springfield, Illinois and my mother was born 11 years after that in 1928.
Years later, my mother shared this picture with a group called “SHARE” out of Saint John’s Hospital in Springfield that was a support group dedicated to assisting mothers and families who had lost a child. The group was founded by Sister Jane Marie Lamb OSF, who at that time was the supervisor of the Maternity department at St. John’s Hospital in Springfield. This photo of my uncle was then placed in SHARE’s magazine in 1987 or 1988, and I believe it was on the cover. So, even 71 years after his short life, my uncle James was teaching all who saw the photo of the value of each and every human life, even though he did not survive labor and delivery.
So I share this photo with you (as I have shared other family photos) to teach of the inherent value of each human life – no matter how young or in what stage of life that they are. And this photo is a reminder of our Faith and what I call the Communion of Saints that those whom we have loved (and perhaps not even necessarily known) are still part of who we are. That is what this photo of my uncle James and my grandparents taught me, and what my mother continued over all of her years as a maternity nurse.
A blessed Easter season to you all and thank you for your witness and generosity and involvement in the life of our local Church.
+Kevin W. Vann, Bishop of Orange