In this week�s blog Fr Paddy writes about baby Mary Alice, born prematurely who sadly passed away after just a few weeks.

Fr. Paddy Byrne has a weekly column in the Nationalist papers.
This column appeared in the edition published 9 June 2010.

Recently I shared the very hopeful story of a premature baby, Mary Alice, delivered at just 24 weeks of pregnancy.

Born on 11 May, she was a real fighter. This was greeted as cause for hope and celebration by her wonderful parents, Joan and Paddy. They had lost a number of babies, and this birth carried the huge hope and expectation that they would be blessed with a healthy baby.

Baby Alice gave real signs of progress and, for the first couple of days, was doing very well. The premature unit in the Rotunda Hospital is a testimony of how resilient we are and of how amazing the human spirit is in its fight to survive. Very sadly, baby Alice�s progress began to decline. She battled until her tiny body was not able to endure, and she died on 30 May.

So many people had been praying for this tiny star to grow healthy and strong. Her parents are truly a remarkable and very loving couple. They have no children alive. With her parents, I buried this baby, and tears were all that was said. I held their hands and felt only a tiny sense of the massive cross that they have to carry in their lives. I also remember what Joan had to say: �I loved every day that I spent with her.�

Why do such terrible things happen to such very good people? Life can be so very cruel, and there are so often many more questions than answers about human suffering. The battle to live is huge in all our lives.

I think of so many good people who live with cancer. Their real endurance and fight lies in the hope of getting well or simply staying alive.

Baby Alice�s parents question why. Why did this terrible circumstance have to visit them, when they would lavish an abundance of love and goodness on their child? In the same way, every day, thousands of babies across the world are aborted, not wanted � their lives not necessary in the plan of those who brought them into being.

Life is such a precious gift. Life is also so fragile and vulnerable. Life is so obviously well worth fighting for: a life where we can be loved and experience the tenderness and love of our family and friends; a life where we can be afforded the environment where our gifts and talents can grow; lives where dreams and ambitions can be achieved and realised; lives where we feel supported, encouraged and connected to a community which supports and befriends.

Every life has a purpose. From the moment of conception until death, we carry an innate dignity that is unique and precious. The Psalms speak about a God who lovingly �knit us together in our mother�s womb�. The Book of Wisdom reminds us that �length of days is not what makes life�; rather, it is the quality of our love. Baby Alice, in her 19 days, received and gave so much love that she will be remembered in the hearts of her parents forever.