It’s hard to believe you were born just two months ago. On Thursday, November 20th, we surrendered you to the good doctors and nurses of Children’s hospital so they could repair a part of your heart that has been missing since before you were born. It has been a long slow walk to the day, when the surgery would make for you, a whole new heart.
You survived. As your mother, I can only say, “Thank God.” Thank God. Thank God. Thank God.
There are so many stories I will have to share with you as you grow older because of this experience.
The night before your operation, the cardiologist drew a picture of your heart as it was and how it would be. It was not lost on me that what the surgeon would build in you looked like a cross. It was not lost on me that without this cross, you would die.
I am happy that we live in a country and an age when this tremendous surgery can be done. The risk involved in this procedure still scared your father and me tremendously. The week prior to your operation, you took a turn for the worse, developing a fever. Agreeing with the counsel of family and good friends, we had you baptized by the visiting priest at the hospital. Just as the doctors wanted your body as healthy and as ready as possible for the surgery, we wanted your spirit ready as well.
We went into the hospital on October 30th, not realizing yet how serious your condition was. You have been in a hospital since. Sometimes your father watched and held you, sometimes your aunt, and sometimes, it was me. Whenever I would take a break for some food or fresh air, I found myself falling into rote prayer; the Our Father, the Hail Mary, the Our Father, the Hail Mary. Sometimes in my distraction, I merged the two. I feared saying “Thy Will be done.” I feared the outcome of your story, wouldn’t be what I wanted. And I didn’t want to be angry or disappointed with God. I feared I would be.
Going to mass, the readings said “Ask.” Friends were praying for you. Family was praying for you. Complete strangers were praying for you. I was afraid to ask.
The dull ache of knowing what might happen made me want to throw myself into the familiar comfort of taking care of my other children or writing, anything but asking. I still prayed, but I didn’t dare ask.
I know the moment I became ready for your surgery. I know the moment. We were at the Hospital for Sick Children, a place for those with less than acute conditions,. The hope had been to keep you there, monitoring your heart and breathing, and allow you to grow a bit before having surgery. Within hours of your arrival there, you developed a high fever, turned gray, and your oxygen levels began to occasionally drop. Your heart was showing signs of failure. I got frantic. I was afraid. I called to the nurses and the doctor on the floor.
The doctor took my son in his arms and listened to my concerns. He ordered me to get some rest. I didn’t want to, I wanted action. He told me he would watch you. That wasn’t good enough I snapped. He looked at me sadly and said, “You have to trust me. I know how precious life is.” His words were God’s echo in my heart. “You have to trust me. I know how precious life is.” I slept well that night.
We watched the nurses prep you to be taken away. We joked with the anesthesiologists who gently carried you to the operating room and allowed us to kiss you several times before leaving. We could only surrender you out of necessity. Watching your bright eyes, I remembered the words. “You have to trust me.”
This year Paul, we keep finding our hearts expanded. Your brothers and sisters have been wrapped in love by their extended family. I know we could not have weathered this time without them. My sister at four months pregnant, came. Your Grandmother from Connecticut, took a leave from work and came. Your Grandfather who stayed behind, had candles lit for you all over Italy this summer. Your Grandparents in Texas, will come. Brothers and sisters have drawn you pictures. Your cousins have written you letters. You Paul, at two months, have been a source of warmth and comfort and wisdom to all of us. You Paul, at two months are well loved.
Over the years to come, I will have to tell you of prayer warriors in Texas and second graders in Colorado who said the rosary for you. I will have to tell you of the humor group online that included a devout reform Jew who put your name on a prayer list, and the woman with whom I had vigorous political debate, who asked her whole church of 2,500 people to pray for you. I will wrap you in a hand knit blanket made by a writer in Canada I’ve never met and show you the 104 emails that came just today, wishing you well. We will introduce you to your parish family; men and women and children who have prayed and done carpool and provided hugs and bagels and chocolate and play dates for your brothers and sisters. All of this experience has been humbling. All of this prayer and love for you, a child few of these people have seen, and fewer have held, it overwhelms.
This multitude of prayers reflects tremendous faith. This outpouring reveals the lavish quality of God’s love manifested in this whole Church, this Body of Christ. All this love for one, for you, God has for all. Paul, you continue to reveal God’s love. You coming home will feel like Christmas and Thanksgiving and Easter all at once. The prayers and love thus far received on your behalf, feel like a spiritual wedding feast.
So be well Paul. I ask God for you to be well. Stay with us and continue in your quiet way to remind us to thank God for all this time. Stay and teach us to thank God for all these people. I thank God for the gift of you.
Love and prayers,