8 years old. Blond hair, neatly cut. Fair skin with flushed cheeks. Curious, trusting, clear blue eyes. Rosy, red lips in a perfectly content, relaxed grin. Wearing a plain red cotton t-shirt and blue jeans with the elastic waist and Velcro sneakers. I meet you in your wheelchair. I asked your dad what was the best way to get you onto the hospital bed to examine you. He picked you up easily in a bear hug, and your lanky, skinny arms wrapped around him, as your tight, contracted legs held their bent position as he plopped you gingerly on the bed. I listened to your heart and lungs, I pressed on your soft tummy, I noted the pull-up you wore with Buzz Light Year printed on the front. You never took those calm, trusting eyes off of me. You never smiled, but your whole face smiled at me. You never spoke, but your whole being spoke to me.
This was maybe two weeks ago, but my visit with you still pops into my mind frequently. It’s unpredictable which patients stay with us. We see patient after patient, and some just settle into our hearts and mind, lingering in our thoughts, reminding us that after they leave our care, they are still here.
What I remember about you is how sweet and happy you are. How you didn’t have to say a thing to let me know you trusted me. You trusted your dad. You trusted this world that you live in. On this day when you weren’t feeling well, you still smiled with your whole face.
What I remember is how well cared for you are. Your styled hair. Your clean clothes and newly changed pull-up. Your new Velcro sneakers and socks without holes.
What I remember about you is how much you are like my own son. Your lanky arms, your lanky legs, your fair skin with flushed cheeks. Your big, curious eyes, trusting me.
You came in for nausea and vomiting. While this is something that has plagued you in the past, this time, it was just a stomach bug rippling through your daycare. Your dad relayed this in sighs of relief. Because this was something common. This was something other kids were going through. This was a “just-like-everyone-else” problem and not a “just-unique-to-you” phenomenon.
See, there are milestones that you and your family have not experienced. Your first word. Your first steps. Your first laugh. But there are milestones that are like gold. Those first hugs. Those first nods of understanding and communication. The realization that you are taking it all in, and those eyes are your window to experiencing and memorizing this whole world around you.
I cannot begin to comprehend how hard this life is for you, for your parents, for the three brothers that came before you. I also cannot speak for the immense beauty and happiness in your life. But the one thing that I do know is that you are loved. You are enriching and touching the lives of your family, of those like me that have had the honor of meeting you. This I have experienced first hand. You are louder than you could ever be in your steadfast ways.
You didn’t have to say a word, but you have touched me. I see you the way I see my son. A wonderful boy that is filled with love and that is loved.
Life is hard. It is hard in different ways for different people. But it is these moments of strong, quiet beauty that keep it tender and keep it worth our hardest work.