Recognizing the mothers shepherding their children through tragedy.
The greatest gift of my work isn’t seeing my name on a book jacket, stepping onto a big stage or participating in some book signing afterwards. While each is obviously an honor, the greatest blessing is when my phone chimes or inbox dings, and I find myself the recipient of a message that usually starts like this:
“I read about a family in the news that could use your help.”
“Have you heard about the little boy in New Jersey?”
“I want to connect you with a family in my neighborhood.”
I’m describing the kind of outreach that results when someone recognizes that a family in crisis, reeling from injury or illness, has a burden of fear and worry that is much too great to bear alone. They reach out to share the story and invite us to lean in with them.
The circumstances of any given request vary widely, but the stories of heartache and healing shared with us all have one thing in common: fearful parents holding a bedside vigil no one ever imagines for themselves. Tender hearted caregivers in search of something—anything—to renew their resolve to keeping going on behalf of their child.
I couldn’t help but think of the families currently on this difficult path as I showered my own Mom—herself no stranger to tragedy—with love and attention on Mother’s Day.
Yesterday Mom received homemade cards, fresh flowers and special gifts. She received phone calls from her children out of town and visits with the ones in town. In other words, her kids took a day to celebrate their remarkable Mom and the profoundly positive model she continues to be in all of our lives.
And while I loved celebrating her, there was a part of me that was with the families pacing the length of a cramped hospital room. The mothers casting expectant glances toward the doorway for the next update; one eye on their watch anticipating the next dose; one prayer begging for just another day.
I thought of Kathleen standing vigil with her little boy Ryan in a hospital thousands of miles from home. I thought of Beth seeing her little Deyvion navigating adolescence scarred on the outside, but absolutely beautiful on the inside. I thought of Kari, worried about what’s next for Sam. Of Curtis’ Mom. Of Sariah’s Mom. Of Kechi’s Mom. I thought of all these children who experienced trauma….and the amazing Mothers who hope that somehow, somewhere, their little one receives the miracle of healing.
And I thought, of course, of my own Mom. I thought of the struggle of losing a home in a fire, raising six kids in the midst of trauma, and guiding her little boy through five months in hospital and years of surgery afterwards. I thought of a courageous woman who against overwhelming odds prayed her little boy would not merely survive, but ultimately receive the gift of a radical healing and an abundant life. A prayer we remain eternally grateful was answered.
My friends, regardless how many years pass or books are written or speeches are given, the greatest gift that came out of our suffering decades ago is the ability to bear witness to the suffering of another, to step in with an open heart when others step away and to impart faith when there feels no reason to believe. It’s not a job, it’s a vocation. And it’s one we’re all called to participate in.
If you’re in a position to reach out to a parent in need today, I hope you will. If we can support in that effort, I hope you ask. And if you’re reading this in the midst of your own trauma, I hope you know:
We see you.
We feel you.
We hear you.
We love you.
And we believe that in spite of the current challenges of this day, the best is still yet to come.
Today is your day. Live inspired.