My first chance to hold my newest niece, Joy Tatum Hale.

My first chance to hold my newest niece, Joy Tatum Hale.

It was the third time we’d had a moment like this. But for me, it was very, very different.

I drove down to Jacksonville on a Sunday and met my parents at my brother’s church. I got to surprise my mom and dad who hadn’t seen me in a few months, my mom in tears after seeing how much I’d changed since she’d spent more than two months by my side in Denton County hospitals in the fall.

After church, we went with Graham, Leslie and the two little girls, along with Aunts DJ and Ann to Spring Creek Barbecue in Tyler and then to our hotel to get a night’s sleep before heading over to the hospital the next morning to welcome the arrival of niece #3.

She arrived just as scheduled. That’s the way c-sections work, I suppose. I had only heard of the term before my first niece was born, more than 5 years ago. I’ve learned a little since then, but I haven’t asked too many questions. Some things are better left with a little mystery to them for the time being.

This was our first Texas baby, and so, the first one I was able to greet in person on the day of her birth, big sisters Ava Grace and Edy Rose having been born in Arkansas.

There’s more to read, but first, here’s a few iPhone photos from the big day and my darling nieces.

As I drove to East Texas early Sunday, the day before the delivery, to hear my brother preach, I was overcome by the East Texas pines and the beautiful blue sky, textured with towering white puffs of cloud. I couldn’t help but thank God for the gift of life. The gift of a new life in our family, a new baby to hold, a new little girl to watch with anticipation and “joy” as her personality develops, as she takes on the qualities from the two families that have been poured into this precious little vessel.

But also the gift of my life, which I almost lost in the fall due to a series of circumstances that I have yet to write about here. I’m not ready to, not yet.

While making that drive, I rolled down the window and stuck my hand out and let the air whip across my arm. Just to feel that… to smell the scent of piney woods, and animals, and burning fuel and the warmth of the blacktop, and to know that I was traveling to spend time with my family who became legends for their faith and love and devotion among my friends and co-workers while I lay in a Denton County hospital bed unconscious. We both quietly and publicly celebrated both of the twin gifts of God – the creation of life and the sustentation of it, and we understood it in these terms because of an even greater gift of life that we all hold in common… the supernatural, everlasting life that comes through faith in Jesus.

They’re mysteries all – the creation, the sustentation, the atonement. And even though we’ve fashioned explanations medical, scientific and theological, for me they still retain the mystery that points to the biggest, most wonderful mystery of all – that the Supreme Being who created and sustains all things in the universe loves us and wants to relate to us. Thankfully we don’t need the explanations to enjoy the mysteries – especially in the moment. As C.S. Lewis wrote, a man who is hungry doesn’t need to understand the intricacies of nutrition and digestion to appreciate a meal and know that it is a life-giving thing for him.

It’s been eight weeks to the day since I walked into that room and met that beautiful girl for the first time. I was happy to be given camera-duty (my comfort zone!) to capture all the moments between the parents, big sisters, grandparents, great aunts and even long distance moments with my sister and Leslie’s sister (through the miracle of iPhone). There were plenty of posed shots, with me fussing over lighting (especially for the photos of me holding Joy), Leslie still trying to influence “quality control” of the images even though she had just delivered a baby, but the best moment of the morning was totally unrehearsed.

Ava Grace was finally given the opportunity to hold her little sister for the first time. She couldn’t take her eyes off of Joy, and for a rare moment seemed completely oblivious to the rest of us in the room. She slowly rocked her sister in her arms, bent her head low, and softly sang a lullabye of her own creation. I recorded the song on an iPhone, but modern technology can’t reproduce the pure sweetness of the moment in that hospital room in Tyler, Texas. It just illustrates another remarkable mystery that I’ve discovered since becoming an uncle. I can’t explain how it’s possible to love someone so deeply when you’ve never even seen them before. But I think it is, once again, a small slice of the creator inside all of us. After all, He knew us before the foundation of the earth, and we are only able to love Him because He first loved us.

With the blog posts I wrote for Ava and Edy, I shared lyrics from songs from New Jersey-born folk singer John Gorka’s 1998 album “After Yesterday” where he spends a few songs with some nice reflections on becoming a parent himself for the first time. The first two girls used up all the thoughtful, reflective, serious lyrics. So for JOY, a song on the album that has always brought a smile to my face.

He looks just like an angel when he’s sleeping

There’s a little piece of heaven where he lies

He looks just like an angel when he’s sleeping

But he looks like Charles Bronson when he cries

He looks like Charles Bronson when he’s crying

He doesn’t have a mustache, but he’s trying

When he’s content, he’s like a present sent from paradise

But he looks like Charles Bronson when he cries

Joy Tatum’s Vital Statistics

  • Weight – 7 lbs., 14 oz. (bigger than both her big sisters)
  • Birthday demeanor – Just chillaxing in everyone’s arms.
  • On her birthday, May 6, the following people were born: French Revolutionary figure Maximilien Robespierre (1758), Austrian psychiatrist Sigmund Freud (1856), American Explorer Robert Peary (1856) who claimed to be the first person to reach the North Pole, silent film actor and heartthrob Rudolph Valentino (1895), American director and actor and radio dramatist Orson Welles (1915), baseball hall of famer Willie Mays (1931), American boxer Rubin “Hurricane” Carter (1937), singer-songwriter Bob Seger (1945), former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair (1953), actor George Clooney AKA “Booker” from Roseanne (1961), Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten (1982), and NBA all-star Chris Paul (1985).
  • On her birthday, May 6, the following people died: Author Henry David Thoreau (1862), “Oz” author L. Frank Baum (1919), German actress Marlene Dietrich (1992), hall of fame pitcher Robin Roberts (2010), actor George Lindsey AKA Goober Pyle (2012).
  • Famous events on May 6 – King Henry VIII ordered that English-language Bibles be placed in every church in England in 1536; Louis XIV of France moves his court to Versailles in 1682; Arkansas seceded from the Union in 1861; Crazy Horse surrendered to US troops in Nebraska in 1877; the Eiffel Tower officially opens in Paris in 1889; an executive order by Franklin Roosevelt creates the Works Progress Administration in 1935; the airship Hindenburg is destroyed after catching fire in New Jersey in 1937; John Steinbeck wins the Pulitzer Prize for “The Grapes of Wrath” in 1940; Bob Hope performs his first USO show in 1941; Roger Bannister becomes the first person to run a mile in under four minutes in 1954; Kerry Wood strikes out 20 Houston Astros in a one-hit shutout to tie Roger Clemens’ major league record in 1998.
  • May 6 is also International No Diet Day and Teachers Day in Jamaica.
  • For more breaking Joy Tatum, Edy Rose and Ava Grace news, check out Leslie’s outstanding blog.

Joy came in the morning


2 thoughts on “Joy came in the morning

  1. Leslie says:

    Just perfect for my Joy! I’m so glad she has this for her baby book just like her big sisters do. They love their Uncle Corey and so do we!

  2. Dora says:

    Great writing!

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