May 10, 1918 – Remembering Berry’s Birthday and Who We Always Will Be

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

Noah and Sofia. All day together, closer than ever.

On Wednesday, September 12, 2001, parents and children held each other closer than ever before letting go. Suddenly, life was newly burdened, and more precious. My ninth-grade carpoolers talked about the children they knew whose parents had been on the planes, and then about the helpers, the EMTs, the firefighters, the doctors and nurses. That was who they wanted to become.

The Spanish flu pandemic began in 1918, the year Berry Brazelton was born. That year saw the end of many lives, as we have and will this year. Yet in 1918, babies – Berry, and others – kept being born. Human life clung on. Berry’s life’s work was about life – its beginnings. He watched and listened and learned from babies. Every baby, he learned, knows what really matters, what makes us human, the certainties that ground us in uncertain times, the continuity amidst all the change. Being with babies or keeping a child in mind helps us hold onto who we always will be and our dreams for their futures.

Berry dodged that pandemic, and this one. He would have been quick to see what we all now know: this virus multiplies inequity. It makes us all vulnerable, but those of us who have always been discriminated against are more so. Those who can least afford to lose, lose the most. If he were here, Berry would have helped us summon strengths we never knew we had – the strengths that every baby inspires in us to protect all babies through the worst of times.

In the worst of times, Berry would have dared us to dream of better times, as my ninth-grade passengers did. Some of them are the helpers now. The helpers say they don’t want to be heroes. They want to help and to live. They need us to dream for their futures too, to be strong for them, and through our physical distancing to hold them closer than ever.

Thank you for protecting life and celebrating birth on Berry’s 102nd birthday, and for all you do, for every baby and all their helpers.

Joshua Sparrow, MD
Executive Director, Brazelton Touchpoints Center