‘A Wink from Heaven’


In the course of our lives, there are those dates on the calendar that are unforgettable, pregnant with meaning because something significant or life-changing happened. Every year when those dates emerge, we are brought back to that moment. Many of the emotions associated with the event are triggered.

I am not just talking about joyful celebratory dates such as birthdays, anniversaries and victories of some kind. I am talking about dates that left scars on our hearts, such as the assassination of President John F. Kennedy; Sept. 11, 2001; and personal losses of loved ones which we all must face.

Oct. 11, 2002, rocked my world. On that day, my father and best friend lost his three-week battle with cancer. His death came on the heels of my dear mother’s death a year previous. Their deaths were such a huge loss. But they also became a moment of truth. For example, I remember one older priest saying to me in the funeral home at my dad’s visitation, “Now you have to grow up.” I was 40 years old, but I knew what he meant. It was truly time to stand on my own two feet. While I accept this fact of life, I sure do miss my mom and dad. Needless to say, Oct. 11 and May 20, the date of my mom’s death, are always challenging days. One never gets used to it.

But Oct. 11 now has new meaning. On this day, after remembering my dad in prayer, I checked my phone and, lo and behold, there was a text from my sister which read: “Welcome to the world, Harper Evan! Delivered at 12:52 a.m. on 10/11/2020. 7 lbs. 6 oz.” My sister was announcing the birth of her first grandchild.

When my sister gave birth to the baby’s father nearly 40 years ago, I remember her speaking to me over the phone just after giving birth. At that time, she was overwhelmed by the beauty of birth. She said, “It is the greatest miracle in the world.” I know she felt the same sense with Harper’s birth because there were serious complications with the baby during pregnancy.

Upon birth, Harper Evan was immediately taken to the operating room for surgery. I am happy to say, by the grace of God and the excellent work of true health care professionals, Harper is stable. She has a long recovery and one more surgery, but God willing she will eventually come to see what a “great” day Oct. 11 is.

You see, when I responded to my sister’s text, she said, “Thanks, Great Uncle Dave.” I know that the word “great” is used in our Catholic tradition to describe certain saints like St. Gregory the Great, St. Leo the Great, St. Albert the Great, and Pope St. John Paul the Great. I certainly do not see myself as being “great,” however, I do understand that being part of a growing family tradition of life has a certain aura.

I realize Mom and Dad are no longer here on earth, but today is extra special because they now, in the family tree, hold the title “great-grandpa and great-grandma.” They were always great in my book.

My sister is now grand in as much as her new title is “grandma.” Her husband is just as grand with the title “grandpa.” But the real greatness today that needs to be acknowledged is in the parents of Harper Evan who said “yes” to life. This “good news” sure gives deeper meaning to Respect Life Month, in which we behold the precious gift of life from the womb to the tomb.

What is more, at least for my family and me, the news of this birth gives a whole new meaning to Oct. 11. We all now will look at this day with joy, believing in our hearts what my other sister said so well, “We got a wink from heaven.”

FATHER DAVID J. BONNAR, editor of The Priest, is a pastor of 16 years in the Diocese of Pittsburgh, where he has served in numerous roles. Follow and like The Priest magazine on Facebook.

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