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day 55: little miracles

March 28, 2011

Day 55 of my “a gift a day project” began with church.  For the first time, I volunteered as a visitor host, which meant I arrived early, set up a table loaded with brochures about Unitarian Universalism, wore an impressive blue name tag, and smiled.  I smiled as I watched the gray rain through the  glass doors of the entryway.  I smiled as I rearranged my brochures, first in order of size and then in order of color.  I smiled as I surreptitiously checked my cell phone for the time, aimlessly wandering behind my expertly-arranged table.

I did a lot of smiling, but very little hosting.  I promise I tried, but, despite my best efforts, I couldn’t find any visitors to host.

Just as I was about to abandon my post to shepherd my own family into church (I’d practiced my welcome speech and really wanted to use it), a couple approached my table.  I recognized them from the week before, when they’d first visited and our sons had played nicely together on the playground.  Early in our conversation the previous week, they shared that their three week-old baby was in the hospital following heart surgery.  When I asked about the surgery, wondering if it was the same procedure my niece had undergone as an infant, they said that Baby L has a rare condition that will require multiple heart surgeries over the next few years.  Throughout that conversation, the couple was cheerful and generous, she asking about my work, he asking about our kids, both wondering about our connection to the church.  After leaving the playground that day, I asked my much smarter and more medically-savvy friend about the baby’s diagnosis.  “It’s pretty bad,”  she said, “most children with Baby L’s condition don’t live to adulthood.”

That exchange was in the forefront of my mind when the couple joined me at the visitor table yesterday.  As before, they were warm and upbeat, retrieving their “Visitor” name tags as they told me they had family arriving from Florida today to see Baby L.  When I asked a cautious, “How is he doing?” they were — again — all smiles.  “We think he’ll be able to come home in a few days,” he said, “Baby L is doing way better than was predicted.”

As the couple rushed to find their places in the sanctuary, I considered the relativity of  miracles.  Baby L’s parents are elated that he may be coming home soon — not that he is cured — and that he is defying whatever initial dire predictions were cast on his tiny head.  I thought of my six year old niece, K, whose parents were told she wouldn’t live through her first night on earth (now, she’s a first grader and a Girl Scout who never stops moving).  Packing up my visitor host table for the morning, I said a quick prayer for Baby L and for his smiling parents, wishing for them whatever strength they will need in the coming days and years.

Later in the afternoon on Day 55, my older son and I attended the birthday party of his very best girl friend.  E has been his partner in crime (including the crime of dumping 3 entire bottles of finger paint in the middle of our playroom carpet in just under 2 minutes) for nearly three years, during which time I have grown to adore her.  She is part tomboy, able to run faster and scale monkey bars more skillfully than any other kid on the playground, and part princess, forever attempting to force my son into a Cinderella dress and heels.  She is a gentle soul who once cried for two hours straight because she thought she’d hurt my son’s feelings.  On her birthday last year, her mother wrote this in an email:

“Today we are celebrating E’s 4th Birthday, and it’s hard to believe that four years ago today we welcomed her into our lives a full 2 months ahead of schedule. It is difficult to really articulate how jolting it was for us to bring her into the world this way, how her birthday was both the most wonderful and most painful day of our lives, and how we still remain in awe of her strength in those early hours and days.”

Because of E’s challenging beginnings in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at the University of North Carolina’s hospital, her family has continued to support the NICU and the March of Dimes at every available opportunity.  In lieu of gifts at E’s birthday party, guests were asked to give a small donation to UNC’s NICU.

My gift on Day 55 was a financial donation to the NICU at UNC hospital.  This gift was given in honor of E, of course, but also in honor of Baby L, my thriving twin nieces, and countless other miracle babies marking time in the hospital while they grow strong enough for home.  Truly, I’m awed when I think of the dedication of neonatal doctors and nurses, the grace of families, and the resilience of little children.

Today, I hope you witness even one little miracle.  Thank you, again, for showing up.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Peggy permalink
    March 28, 2011 12:21 pm

    March of Dimes and all the babies thank you! We’ll be walking again this year. Happy to have you and the boys (big and small) join us if you’re here–the Austin walk is May 7th.

    • Peggy permalink
      March 28, 2011 12:25 pm

      Ok, so re-reading this I’m not sure it makes sense. I know you didn’t donate to MOD. Obviously have them on the brain.

      • March 28, 2011 3:37 pm

        Your comment definitely made sense to me, and I mentioned MOD in the post… you also have good reason to have it on the brain. Check your email this evening — hope you are doing great :).

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  1. day 56: what counts, and a new ugly craft « a gift a day

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