Thirty-one years ago today, our first child was born at 12:35 AM on a Sunday morning. Like all mothers, I remember the details of that day at Lookout Memorial Hospital in Spearfish, South Dakota with perfect clarity. But my memories are different than those of many other new parents. The joy of the memory of our son’s arrival is tinged with sadness and gratitude.
I remember breakfast being interrupted with the news that our son was having trouble breathing.
I remember the food going tasteless when the doctor advised transferring him to Rapid City Regional Hospital for tests.
I remember being alone when the pediatrician from Rapid City called a few hours later with a diagnosis.
I remember wishing my husband hadn’t gone to take a shower at a friend’s house.
I remember the doctor saying the words tracheoesophageal fistula for the first time.
I remember telling that stranger to life flight our newborn to the University of Nebraska Hospital in Omaha for immediate surgery.
I remember crying so hard my husband could hardly understand my words when he returned.
I remember him taking my hand and praying for our son while tears streamed down my face.
I remember when the call arrived that our son had survived the trip.
I remember the surgeon calling at midnight to say Allen was doing well after surgery.
I remember my relief and more tears when once again, I relayed the doctor’s words to my husband.
For thirty years now, I have relived the events of that day every May twenty-third. I glance at the clock throughout the day and think the same thoughts.
This is when the doctor interrupted breakfast.
About now, the call came from Rapid City with a diagnosis.
Allen took his first airplane ride on an afternoon like this.
He went into surgery about now.
And then, every May twenty-third when I go to bed, I think,
When I wake up tomorrow morning, my baby will still be alive.
As I drift off to sleep, a movie reel plays in my head:
Celebrating Allen’s first birthday with the GI doc and his nurse in Rapid City.
Our two-year-old’s delight when he opened his first pair of cowboy boots.
His continuing delight in all things cowboy to this very day.
His little boy hugs.
His young boy curiousity.
His teenage embarrassment at being dropped off at school in a minivan.
The love in his eyes when his bride walked down the aisle.
The moment he called to say, “Mom and Dad, you’re grandparents.”
When I wake up on the twenty-fourth, the sadness is gone and all that remains is joy. Pure joy to have received, in the first hours of our son’s existence, a gift uniquely given to parents of children with special needs:
The realization that life on this earth hangs by a tenuous thread.
Deep gratitude for every day graces like the ability to swallow and smile and speak.
Wonder that God should choose us to care for our special, mysterious child.
Sure signs of His hand guiding our path.
Assurance that one day all things will be made right in heaven.
I am grateful for a gift I never would have asked for, a gift I wouldn’t trade for a world of earthly treasure. And I pray, as perhaps you do on the anniversary of your child’s birth, Dear God, may these lessons remain as clear as yesterday for all the days of my life. Amen.
And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you.
Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!
2 Corinthians 9:14-15