Sometimes it takes great strength to be quiet enough to listen to the breathing of a child.
Especially a child who is about to die.
We want to rush around, to talk to the doctors, to make decisions, to somehow stop what can’t be stopped. The thought of a dying infant is a stab in the chest of every parent. It offends our basic sense of fairness. Babies aren’t supposed to die. Their lives are still ahead of them.
As parents, we want to take charge – to make decisions, to defy gravity, to shake people by the shoulders in the hope of a medical cure.
But there would be no medical cure for Sophia Cordier. The little girl, who was born last Aug. 12 at Good Samaritan Hospital in Cincinnati, had been diagnosed with a chromosomal disorder that occurs in one out of every 3,000 live births.
Sophia Grace Cordier died on Jan. 7. She was a week short of being five months old.
Overwhelmingly, the prognosis for babies with this disorder is that they will die. Half of these babies who are carried to term are stillborn. Nine out of 10 who survive until birth will die before their first birthday.
The doctors ran some tests. The diagnosis was confirmed, and the parents, Ann and Andy Cordier of Clermont County’s Miami Township, were offered the option of abortion.
They said no.
Ann, 43, and Andy, 49, who married 14 years ago, considered Sophia’s life to be as sacred as those of their other five children – even if her life was to be a short one. It still had value beyond measure and was worthy of respect.
Sophia’s uncle, Father Michael Cordier, pastor of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in Miami Township, is my parish priest. I was one of hundreds of people who paid their respects last week at Sophia’s visitation at St. Gertrude Church in Madeira. I spoke briefly with the child’s mother.
Ann told me that she hopes Sophia’s life will help people recognize “the value that each and every person has as they are created in the image of God – no matter their shortcomings or faults.” Such children, Ann said, “should be loved and cherished and protected.”
This is a family of deep faith and quiet courage, which even strangers could see.
“I really admire you for what you’re doing,” one of the nurses told Ann shortly before Sophia was born.
The Cincinnati Enquirer reported on what Ann had called her “miracle baby” – and on how many parishioners at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton and St. Gertrude were praying for Sophia and her family. The paper followed-up with a report on the child’s death.
“We really were very reluctant to share our story, but we prayed about it,” Ann told me. “My motivation was that if one life, one little baby, could be saved and see the light of day and be brought home by parents, it was worth being in the limelight for a little bit no matter how painful it is for us.
“I want people to have the courage to choose life – to embrace life even if it has faults,” Ann said. “I also want people to have the courage to choose God’s will over their own, to be at peace with what happens.”
I’m the chairwoman of the Congressional Pro-Life Women’s Caucus, and I share Ann and Andy’s view that all life is sacred.
The annual March for Life is scheduled for Monday, Jan. 23, in Washington, and it is fitting that we keep people like the Cordiers in our thoughts and in our prayers.
Sophia’s family found a way to reap joy from a child who would never be able to speak her own name.
Sophia died surrounded and held by the family who loved her. In addition to her parents, Sophia is survived by: two brothers, Joe, 13, and John, 7; three sisters, Marie, 11, Michelle, 9, and Rose, 4; and grandparents Paul and Mary Ann Blom of Springfield Township in Hamilton County, and Laura Cordier of Mariemont (widow of the late Eugene Cordier).
Other families wrestle with the same issues – of life and death, of mercy and conviction, of hope and despair.
They, too, need our moral support, our arm around their shoulder, and our ear to hear their story.
Jean Schmidt is the U.S. Congresswoman serving Ohio’s Second District.