The Wee MacGregor

Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee;
and before thou camest forth out of the womb
 I sanctified thee. . . .

— Jeremiah 1:5


In the 1960s, the ninth child of family friends of ours was born in central Nebraska. He was seven weeks premature.


That same month, President and Mrs. John F. Kennedy lost a newborn son to underdeveloped lungs. Sadly, this baby had the same problem. The doctor said he was having difficulty breathing. They put him in the ”preemie nursery.”


That evening, relatives went with the new parents to the nursery. The tiny baby was red-faced and struggling. Things did not look good.


At 6:20 the next morning, my friend was jarred awake by a phone call. His son had just died.


He comforted his wife, who was still in the hospital, as best he could. He went to Mass. Everyone was glad the little one had been baptized. They named him Marion Michael.


Losing a child may well be the hardest thing to go through in life. It’s a direct hit on your happiness, an assault on your sense of security. Difficult beyond words.


But there’s a way to respond in faith. And my friend found it.


It’s one of the best examples of spiritual warfare I’ve ever heard. Let him reminisce:


”I had to tell our eight children about their little brother’s death, which caused the tears — mine and theirs — to flow freely. We had opened our hearts to this child who now would not be coming home.


”The children and I were crying during breakfast. I decided to put some music on our record player to try to cheer us up. We heard vocals by the ‘Brothers Four,’ selections from Victor Herbert, German band marches, operetta marches, the ‘Light Cavalry Overture,’ and Gilbert and Sullivan.


”Our family is of Scottish descent. So I put on some Scottish Highland martial music, featuring bagpipes and drums. While the Black Watch Band was playing the famous old Scottish battle song, ‘The Wee MacGregor,’ my wife called from the hospital. I held up the phone for her to hear.


”We agreed the music was especially appropriate for our situation. It starts so softly that at first you can’t hear it. Then it gets louder and louder, a beautiful melody. When it’s going full blast, strong and beautiful, it fires up your blood. Then it gradually fades away until you can’t hear it anymore.


”It was just like that with our son, Marion Michael. He came into our lives and family, captured our hearts, and then drifted away from us.”


They think of him now as their ”anchorman” in heaven.


Some 40 years later, as an Epiphany gift, one of those sons gave his parents a compact disc of Scottish music, featuring ”The Wee MacGregor.”


It helps to know your loved ones remember, after all those years.


I can just see that father with his eight tearful children, sitting around the breakfast table listening to the stirring bagpipes and pounding drums of that Scottish song. It lifted their spirits and opened their hearts to the ministrations of the Lord. He so often comes to us through music . . . when words aren’t enough.


I imagine the children picturing their little brother in a teensy tam o’shanter, wrapped in plaid, marching off to heaven.


I see pure love in this story: the love of a father who wished to lighten the hearts of his grieving children, and still express his sorrow over losing the son he’ll never know, at least not on this earth.


How I wish people who think abortion is OK would think the way that father does.


How I wish they’d treat tiny human beings, born and not yet born, like ”Wee MacGregors.” They are real, live human beings, distinctive, individual, with a future and contributions to make. They are not just disposable, anonymous “blobs of tissue.”


They are to be cherished, protected and loved.


Thank you, Marion Michael, for reminding us of that. That’s why you were born. It’s why you won’t be forgotten.


Your life story is uplifting, like the bagpipe music that links you to all still on our way to heaven . . . determined to take the high road. †

Listen to The Wee MacGregor

By Susan Darst Williams | | Young’Uns | © 2020