THE STATS and STORY
Paton (pronounced Pay-ton) was born at 12:24am on Saturday, September 10, 2011 (Yes, 09-10-11…pretty cool!). Perhaps even more significant than the unique date was that he was born on my 33rd birthday–making him the best birthday present that I’ve ever received. He was 8 lbs, 1 oz, measuring 20 in. long.
Since so many of you have asked about the birth–well, mostly the ladies–I thought I’d share some of the details in this blog post…We went in for my regular appointment on Friday and were told that I had the beginning signs of toxemia (similar to my experience with Ava–high BP etc.). The doctor/midwife recommended that we induce that day, especially since I was already overdue (his original due date was September 5th–Labor Day, ironically). In anticipation of this very thing, we had brought our hospital bags with us and we felt mentally and physically prepared to embrace the challenge of labor and delivery. I say “we” because it is very much a team effort, thanks to my wonderful husband…I can’t imagine doing it without him! Around 5pm, the doctor broke my water, and after walking the halls for 45 min or so, the contractions began. By 9:30pm, I was in Transition Stage (the worst, yet most effective of the contractions), which “only” lasted for 2.5 hours. This was such an answer to prayer, since my Transition Stage with Ava had been 8 hours long, and I really didn’t think that I could handle that again. Another answer to prayer was that the pushing stage was only 10-15 minutes, whereas it had been over 2 hours with Ava. I mention these little details to thank everyone who was praying for a smooth and quick delivery. I’m not saying that it was a piece of cake, but it was SO much better than our experience with Ava’s birth! When our little girl was born, I didn’t have the strength to hold her in my arms, I was so exhausted from the ordeal. With little Paton, I was able to fully engage in welcoming him into this world–it was such a sweet time for Nate and I.
In considering names for our children, it is important to us that they contain a deep, personal meaning. This was true for Ava Evangelyn (see the What’s In a Name? post) and it is likewise true for Paton Eric. Both the first and middle name for our son are derived from two remarkable people. Beyond the individuals themselves, however, their names represent the incredible God that they served and His loving faithfulness to them, despite severe hardships and trials. As embodied in these two names, we feel like the theme of our first two years in Cambodia has also been God’s faithfulness. There have been many joyful moments, to be sure, but there have also been dark times when we cried out to Him for strength. In every situation, He saved our spirits from despondency and raised us up by the mercy of His grace. It is solely because of His faithfulness to us, as manifested in His providential and personal care, that we are able to serve Him in Cambodia, and we praise Him for this!
This name was inspired by John G. Paton, a 19-century missionary to the New Hebrides Islands in the South Pacific. Both Nate and I have found great encouragement in the life of this man and his family–in his unwavering service in a foreign land, but even moreso, in the amazing, sustaining grace of God, which enabled them to leave loved ones and labor among cannibals. He is famous for this quote, in response to the criticism (by a Mr. Dickson) that he would surely be eaten by the natives:
Mr. Dickson, you are advanced in years now, and your own prospect is soon to be laid in the grave, there to be eaten by worms; I confess to you, that if I can but live and die serving and honoring the Lord Jesus, it will make no difference to me whether I am eaten by Cannibals or by worms; and in the Great Day my Resurrection body will rise as fair as yours in the likeness of our risen Redeemer.
For a more detailed account of Paton’s life, John Piper has prepared an excellent biography at Desiring God
The name “Eric” means eternal rule and is derived from Nate’s oldest brother–the brother that he never met. When Eric was almost 6 years old, he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Even at this young age, Eric displayed an extraordinary faith in Christ and a desire to glorify God with his young life, even through the trial of cancer. During his many uncomfortable chemo treatments, he was known to recite the 23rd Psalm. One of his doctors commented that Eric was the most relaxed and best chemo patient that she had encountered. God’s grace was truly displayed in his six-year battle with leukemia, as he found strength in Jesus, his good Shepherd.
At age nine, Eric wrote, “When I grow up, I think I want to be a missionary and I am going to be a Bible translator. I feel so happy about it and I can please the Lord by doing this.“ As he neared his impending death, Eric was not afraid to leave this earth: “I don’t know if more people will become Christians if I die or if I become an evangelist like Billy Graham.” He had resigned his life to His Savior, whatever the outcome.
Shortly before his twelfth birthday, the Lord called Eric to be with him. Seven months later, Nate was born.
When Nate first told me about Eric’s story, I was deeply affected by the implications of his life and death. Even now, as I pen these words, my eyes are welling up with tears. I cannot imagine what his parents, Bob and Nancy, experienced…and still experience. To watch your firstborn child slowly die. To cry out to God for a miracle, only to have Him gently refuse. God’s faithfulness was loudly manifested in Eric’s life, but it was also proclaimed from the life of his godly parents. Today, as they speak of Eric, there is no bitterness or resentment. They trusted in their Lord and Savior during the dark hours and they continue to trust His good and perfect will.
In one of my conversations with Nancy, she shared that God used Eric’s illness to prepare her heart for Nate’s later decision to pursue missions–particularly the fear of her children dying abroad from a strange tropical disease. She and Bob were attending a missions conference when the missionary speaker asked all those to stand who were willing to labor abroad for their Lord. Bob stood up, with Nancy hesitantly following him, and they began the process to become foreign missionaries. Bob’s employment refused a leave of absence, so they made the decision to resign. The day before he was planning to submit his letter of resignation, Eric was diagnosed with leukemia. When he contracted this fatal illness on American soil, she realized that she needed to fully entrust her precious children to the Lord–that they were no more “safe” here in the U.S. than in the disease-infested jungles. Thus, years later, when Nate informed them of his desire to be a missionary, she had already learned the difficult lesson, and she was able to fully release him, knowing that He was in the Lord’s hands.
When Nate was young, many were startled at his striking resemblance to Eric. He had the same bright blond hair and blue eyes–unlike the other siblings. When Nate expressed a desire to go into missions, he was following the same path that his brother had desired to tread so many years before. Nate did not replace Eric, but in many ways, God used his birth and subsequent life, as a healing balm over the wounds of loss. I’m sure that as the Wells said goodbye to their firstborn and then welcomed Nate into the family 7 months later, that they must have been very aware that “the Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21).
Here’s the story from Nancy’s perspective:
Without a doubt, Eric’s six year illness and then death was the most difficult trial that Bob and I have had to go through. At the same time, the Lord allowed us to see His goodness and faithfulness first hand in Eric’s life as well as in our own. First of all, Eric had prayed to receive Christ and the Lord made it very clear to us that Eric was His child by letting us see definite fruit in his young life. We knew that without a doubt, that if the Lord chose to take Eric, we would see him again in heaven. One particularly meaningful verse at that time was, “I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” (Psalm 27:13) We did not despair in part, because the truth of this verse was shown to us many times over. For instance, God gave Eric grace to endure the painful treatments. Most of the times Eric had to be in the hospital, the Lord put us in the path of another Christian family that we could encourage. We and Eric had opportunities to witness to hospital staff and unbelieving patients. My parents had moved from N.J. to Los Gatos just a year before Eric was diagnosed and were available to watch our other children whenever Eric had to be in the hospital.
A second verse that stands out is “The eternal God is a refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.” (Deuteronomy 33:27a) We had the continual assurance that the Lord was always there, as He comforted us and poured out His grace on Eric, us and the rest of our family.
Nathan was born seven months after Eric died. What a blessing and joy he, as well as our other children, have been to us! At just the right time then, in God’s perfect plan, Nathan in a sense, picked up where his oldest brother left off – serving His Lord as a missionary. God had prepared Bob and I to give him our blessing.
And so, little Paton Eric, we pray that you would follow in the footsteps of these two great souls—that their God would be your God, and that you would know His faithful love and care as you serve Him. We love you, precious son, and we can’t wait to watch your life unfold.