I went the funeral of Uncle L. a few years ago. He was a sweet man. As an aside, he was an excellent tailor. He made all of his wife’s clothes, and they were beautiful. He also made his own wedding cake. (He was widowed and then married again later in life. I only knew his second wife.) After the graveside, we sat at a restaurant and people told stories about him. He wasn’t really my uncle, but a lot of people called him Uncle. He was Sri Lankan. In his culture as in other traditional cultures, “Uncle” is used as a term of respect to some folks, usually older folks, even if they are not really one’s Uncle. Anyway, at the restaurant, another uncle told this story. I just thought of it tonight for some reason.
At the very beginning of the twentieth century, a woman was about to give birth in Sri Lanka (I guess Ceylon then). She was laboring at home as would have been common. At the last moment, apparently the midwife was delayed. She sent her assistant in her stead. Everything went fine, apparently. The child was delivered, the mother was okay, and the assistant set to cleaning up. Finally, and after the fact, the midwife arrived. The midwife told the assistant, “Tell me everything that happened and everything you did.” So the assistant recounted all of the details of the birth, and the midwife inspected the mother and baby as the assistant talked. The assistant also explained how she had taken the placenta outside as was customary and placed it in the ground so it could be buried. “Show me,” said the midwife. They went outside. The midwife looked at the placenta. Suddenly it moved! The midwife inspected the placenta. There was much more than a placenta – there was another amniotic sac and another baby! It had been born “in the caul” – the amniotic sac was (or had been at birth) still intact. Because it was in the caul, the assistant had not noticed the other baby, especially given she was so focused on the (first, and she thought only) baby and the mother. They took the baby, who was miraculously breathing, inside, and cleaned him up. That baby was Uncle L, and he lived to be 93.
It sounds almost too crazy to be true, but they say the mother always told them the story. In Psalm 40, David writes “I waited patiently for the LORD; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry. He brought me up also out of an horrible pit…” I guess Uncle L. used to quote those verses with a twinkle in his eye.