Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

April 29, 2007


Why the two of us always remember a day in April


April 18 has come and gone again. It is not a holiday. For most people it is just another day on the calendar. But for me and my bride it has been a very special day for 54 years. It was on that day in 1953 that our first son was born.

          This time we went out to supper together, held hands, and remembered that turbulent day of David’s birth. A vicious tornado ripped through Lee County, Alabama, that day, destroying many homes and damaging others.  

          We were living in a small rented house at 818 Lakeview Drive in Auburn. The rent was $75 a month. I was in my third year at API, the land-grant college now known as Auburn University.

          Early in the morning we hurried off to the small hospital that has become East Alabama Medical Center. Dean’s sharp and rapid labor pains convinced us that today we would become parents.

          Dark clouds and light rain made us a little uneasy. We knew that bad weather had been forecast. But we had no idea how bad it would become during the hours Dean was in labor. By the time the baby was born, the tornado had done its worst and moved on.

          The storm was so bad that the hospital had to switch to emergency power when nearby power lines went down. Rain was hitting the windows in torrents. Water even poured into the hospital through the air-conditioning ducts. But several hours would pass before we heard about the tornado touching down.

          Our kind physician, Dr. Ben Thomas, had to drive through a torrential rain from Auburn get to the hospital. Shortly after his arrival, debris from the storm made driving in the area quite hazardous.

          When I returned home that night, elated by the safe delivery of our firstborn, I found our house damaged by the storm. The roof had been ripped off on the front, allowing the rain to soak some of our stuff. But the damage seemed incidental compared to the total destruction of several nearby homes.

          Our baby boy was beautiful and healthy. His blond hair and blue eyes made him even more special to us. We were happy and thrilled to have started our family. Though we had little money, we enjoyed life. The future was bright. We had the world by the tail. I finished Auburn and we moved to Nashville where I enrolled in seminary at Vanderbilt University.

          Then another storm descended upon us just as swiftly as the tornado had come. Tests brought bad news for David. His voice breaking as he fought back tears, our doctor said, “Your son has leukemia.”

          He explained that there was no known cure. The best he could do would be to keep David comfortable until he died. “Perhaps,” he said, “a cure will be discovered soon.”

          I asked how long David had. His answer sent a chill up and down my spine. “My best guess is somewhere between two months and two years,” he said. It was the worst moment of my life – hearing that death sentence for our precious little boy.

          The diagnosis shattered our world on a day in September.  David suffered. We struggled with the burden. We prayed. We cried. We stifled our anger, wrestled with our fear.

          Finally David’s suffering came to an end on a day in May the next year.   His death wounded us but it did not destroy us. Though tested sorely by the loss of our only child, our marriage lasted and became stronger. God met us in the hallways of hell and showed us the way out. We refused to become bitter and let God make us better. We let him use the pain.

          Over the years our sadness has given way to the overwhelming joy that is God’s gift to those who keep holding his hand through tough times.

And each time April 18 rolls around, we pause to give thanks for the privilege of having David for three short years.

          This time, the 54th celebration of David’s birth, we gave thanks that we were still together, still able to remember his beautiful smile, and still thankful for the joy that was ours on the day our first child was born.

          Perhaps you can understand why the 18th day of April remains a day that is very dear to us. It will always be so, as long as we live. + + +