Wednesday, November 4, 2009
From Buds to Blossoms . . .
I'm taking a break . . . I'm supposed to be writing some portions of an e-book that I am writing for a client, about her experiences going through cancer and her process of healing. I've been working on it this afternoon and have made some good progress, but I keep feeling this well of emotions creeping up on me, feeling like a surging, swirling tempest, ready to pour out. I know then, that it is time to write . . . and not write for someone else, or write something logical, sensible, or rehearsed. It is time to write with pure freedom and raw emotion. Even though I may not have had this feeling much for a few years, I remember it all too well.
I've been listening to the soundtrack to "A Beauitful Mind." It is one of two of my favorite albums to listen to while I work. The other is the soundtrack to "Amistad." There is something about each of them that not only lulls me into a calm, focused state of being, but that also quakes awake my creative juices, even though I've listened to them each over a thousand times. Some music just does that to you. Not to mention that they each seem to stir my emotions to the surface, ready to handpick and cradle in my palm while I examine it. Do you ever turn your music up to a relatively high volume and just let it completely wash over you? There are many things that I do that with, and you should really try it with these two soundtracks. They're simply put: beautiful!
I spoke with my brother, Jeremy, this morning and he told me that my six year old niece, BryAnna will be having her first surgery tomorrow for ear reconstruction. It's almost funny that they call it "reconstruction," since BryAnna was born without external ears, and will soon be getting them for the first time. She was born with Treacher Collins Syndrome, which is mainly marked by facial anomalies, such as one eye being slightly droopy and ear buds, instead of full ears. She has had a food tube and traech since she first came into the world. She has overcome each of them in her own tenacious way . . . eating and drinking orally and learning to breath and speak, at times, while using a special device that "plugs" her traech hole. She has overcome many many odds and I know will continue to do so.
On the day she was born I had just driven home from a day of classes at Indiana Wesleyan University. I pulled up alongside the curb in front of our house and began to assemble my books and bag, when my dad suddenly appeared by the passenger door. He opened it and knelt down. He paused. I noticed that his eyes were pink and puffy. Something was wrong. "She's in the hospital," he said, his voice shaky and unhinged. "The cord was wrapped around her neck four times and she has a collapsed lung."
I had no idea what or who he was talking about. I could barely get any syllables out of my mouth to ask him to explain. I think all I managed to say was, "What?"
I stumbled into the house, looking for Mom. She was crying. We embraced for a moment and then we all said, "Let's get to the hospital."
And off we drove . . . ready see BryAnna for the first time.
It was one of the most emotional and exhausting days of my life, and everyone else's life in our two families. I remember all of us circling around Mary's hospital bed, praying, and holding hands. There was much sadness and fear in that room, but there was also much love.
Shortly after we arrived they began to transport Bry to Riley hospital. Eventually Jeremy and my dad followed. It was terrible to be split apart in that moment, most especially for Jeremy and Mary. Then, and so many times since then they have proven how strong they are, and I marvel at their fortitude and stamina. I don't think I could do what they do.
That day I only briefly saw BryAnna as they wheeled her out of the room. She was a pink blur that whizzed by. I saw her for really the first time the next week, when we went to see them all at Riley. She was tiny and fragile. She had cords that seemed to drip out of every part of her body. I honestly didn't know what to expect, and it was more impactful than I could have imagined. Here was this tiny, precious being, completely unaware of all that was to come, all that she would have to endure. I felt my body go weak as I noticed the things that made her different. I felt anger toward myself for even noticing. I loved her, that was for sure. I didn't ever even have to see her or know her to love her. But when I did get to meet her for the first time, I felt such passion for this little girl. And I thought, "What in the world will I be able to give to her? How will I be able to help her?"
Bry was born on December 4, and was still living at Riley over Christmas. Mary and Jeremy came back home to celebrate with family, but it was a very lonely holiday. Their hearts, of course, were back in the NICU. In the ensuing months I got chances to hold her and take care of her. I was so afraid of hurting her or moving her in the wrong way. She was much more fragile than any baby that I had held, and I was terrified that I would do something wrong.
What started off as a frail, quiet baby has turned into a feisty, exuberant, sassy, and boisterous six year old. If you couldn't see or sometimes hear her differences, you'd never know that she was any different from any other first grader. She has more spunk and more spirit than any Olympic team, and more courage and determination than any army. We are all amazed by her. Everyone who comes into contact with her is amazed and touched. She has touched more lives in her short six years than most of us could hope to do in a lifetime. She will always be an inspiration, simply because she is a fighter. And I wish that I were more like her in that way. She puts me to shame.
BryAnna loves everyone and knows no stranger. And I'm so thankful for the relationship that Kevin and I both have with her . . . and with her sister, Nikole. We are incredibly close with them, and I am a better person because of it. They both mean more to us than they will ever realize, and the same goes for our other niece and nephews. Kids have such a powerful way of showing you the best parts of yourself. They see who you are at your core. They may not know all your deep, dark secrets, but they are able to see the true soul of who you are.
That is my wish for Bry . . . that the people in her life always see her beautiful spirit and loving soul, no matter what her outsides may look like. And I wish, more importantly, for her to see that in herself, always. To not ever feel lesser than or inferior because of her differences, but feel more beautiful because of them. She may not look the same as other kids, but to me, she is absolutely beautiful! Whatever differences I noticed in her the first time I saw her, quickly faded away, and I just saw her. And anyone that knows her, knows that that is a beautiful thing!