Birthday Girl

Birthday Girl

From Chicken Soup for the Grandparent's Soul

Birthday Girl

The very least you can do in your life is to figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope.

Barbara Kingsolver, Animal Dreams

Several years ago, while I worked for Visiting Nurses, I made an initial home visit to a family in a poor part of the city. Misty Harper (not her real name), my new patient, was five years old. She had been born with defects of the heart, liver and kidneys. The doctors predicted she wouldn’t survive long enough to leave the hospital.

Anna Harper, a large, smiling woman, introduced herself as Misty’s grandmother. She sat me down on the well-worn, overstuffed sofa in a living room crowded with furniture. Mrs. Harper had something she wanted to show me before Misty’s assessment. She pulled out a huge scrapbook full of photos, articles and newspaper clippings. The first was a newspaper article reporting Misty’s birth, the damage to her internal organs and the sad predictions for the future. Her daughter, Misty’s mother, had been so stricken with grief that she was afraid to bring her baby home from the hospital. She believed that if Misty came home, her older three children would grow too attached to the baby and would be devastated by the loss.

“What happened?” I asked, suddenly understanding the closeness of this family.

“I took her home myself,” Mrs. Harper said. “My instincts and my faith just told me she was not going to die.”

We sat together for a while longer looking at the album. It held photographs of a sweet infant, then of a beautiful toddler growing up to be a lovely little girl.

She pointed to little newspaper clippings that filled the album. “Every year I send an announcement to the newspaper to celebrate Misty’s birthday. It’s just my way of telling everyone who cares that Misty is still with us.”

Then she opened the door to the kitchen, and I saw a happy little girl eating breakfast with her sister and two brothers. A younger version of Mrs. Harper, Misty’s mother, Coral, was spooning out more cereal. She smiled and beckoned me into the kitchen.

“My mother watches my kids every morning before school starts. In a few minutes, I go off to work.”

Not wanting to disturb them I told her I didn’t think I’d do an assessment that day. Next week I would come back. I closed the door quietly. Mrs. Harper walked me to the front door. As I was leaving she said, “Whenever a new doctor or nurse comes to our home to check Misty, I show them my album. Children are more than statistics. They are love and faith and what you put into them.”

I felt humbled. She was right. Misty was proof of that.

“She will be six next May. Be sure to check the paper,” Mrs. Harper teased.

In May I searched the announcements. There I found it.

MISTY HARPER WILL CELEBRATE HER SIXTH BIRTHDAY. THANK YOU LORD FOR ANOTHER MIRACLE YEAR. Every May, I still look for the announcement and remember the family telling me in their own good-humored way, “Medicine doesn’t know everything.”

Barbara Bloom

Reprinted by permission of Donna Barstow.

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