The first time I met him he had a dozen lines, wires, probes, or tubes sticking out of that tiny little eight pound body. I had anticipated this day for almost nine months and was eagerly awaiting my opportunity to gently (and repeatedly) kiss that soft spot on the top of his head.
Instead, I had to settle for gently stroking the clearest spot I could find with one finger of my freshly and thoroughly scrubbed hand.
We were concerned when it took his daddy so long to text us from the operating room where the scheduled cesarean section was happening. But delays happen in hospitals. Our fears increased, however, when his text finally came through: “He’s out.” (He’s out?) And then: “Problem with breathing. Pray.”
My heart stopped. I swear it truly did for a moment.
Nothing was supposed to be wrong. Nothing is EVER supposed to be wrong.
But a lot was wrong. His little heart was mis-wired. A whole series of miracles ensured his survival in those first few hours.
I saw his daddy, once alone, go from anguish to anger and then rapidly right back to a fierce faith from which I never saw him waver. I saw his mama set aside her own surgical pain to minister to her boy, commandeering a wheelchair so she could be wherever he was.
It was the scariest thing this family has ever been through. Our faith was tried, our strength and endurance put to the test. I saw both families of this little guy heroically rally and pray and trust and persevere.
But the true hero of all this was the little fellow I started calling Superman.
It was a lot that was asked of him. He had to endure one surgery at just a few hours old. Then four days later, he had to undergo a surgery more serious than most of us will ever face. And he’ll have a long, vertical scar down the center of his chest the rest of his life to show for it. Weeks in the ICU, months and years following up with specialists.
But we have had those weeks and months and years. Because little Superman soaked in all that faith and strength of his parents, as well as the diligent prayers of grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts, uncle, the prayingest cousin you could imagine, and a big sister at just two years old, confused but praying. And Superman persevered. Gradually the tubes and wires came out, the monitors – no longer necessary – turned off one by one, the noise of machinery gradually abating.
He got to sleep snuggled in their arms.
I finally got to kiss that soft spot.
Little Superman turns three today. He is an active, rambunctious, fearless little tow-headed boy who gave me a new name (“Nannie” became “Mimi”). Like his, my heart has been forever changed.
*I take nothing for granted. There is no “normal.”
*I see faith as not just a concept, but as something real, tangible, and witnessed.
*I discovered that Jesus put the handholds on the slippery sides of the pit of fear. And the more people who hang onto them with you, the higher up you climb together.
*There is a point of being so totally overwhelmed that “I can’t handle this” ceases to even be considered or spoken. You just do. Handle it. And at some point you realize you are living that Footprints poem. And you come out the other side.
Superman has a baby brother now, born two years to the day of his big brother’s heart surgery. As he grows, there will be days that he’ll look at his big brother as a hero, a Superman. He’ll ask him to tell again the story of that cool scar on his chest, maybe running his finger along it in awe and wonder.
He probably won’t even notice his parents’ eyes well up with tears as they silently breathe their zillionth prayer of thanksgiving for the life of this little man. But that wouldn’t surprise him because prayer is what their parents do.
As I watch this boy go tearing past me on his current adventure, and I’m marveling at how brave and heroic he is, my thoughts always go to them – his parents.
Imagine. Imagine just for a moment being the kind of people entrusted as the parents of Superman.
Talk about heroes.