For the Life of a Little Girl
Today I find myself bargaining with God. While I go about my everyday activities, I am silently begging for the life of a child.
In this moment, it is not my child. Dare I even express any small relief? It was once my child, and could be again, at any moment. Any and all of us stand precariously on the edge of loss. The small, precious, holy packages that come to us in the earthly forms of children are so very fragile. When one of them is damaged in transit, the risk is even higher. And there is no return policy for heartbreak, nor refunds for hopes and dreams lost.
Today, in the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, a tiny six year old girl is undergoing a Herculean battle. She has survived so much. Being an orphan girl with birth defects, in China, no less. A long voyage across the sea to find a new family. Kindergarten.
Teresa Bartlinski is a classmate of my daughter, Hannah. Hannah describes her as "the girl in my class that isn't allowed to get sick." She also says that Teresa "does pretty well behind the microphone", like they are contestants on The Voice, not little girls. I've spent the last several days exploring the Bartlinski family blog, Our Place Called Home, learning more about this little girl I've never met. I've watched videos of her giggles, her vocal stylings, and of her pronouncement that she was going to get "her new heart."
Can you imagine what that must feel like to a six year old? (Officially six and a half, as of today. Happy half birthday, Teresa!)
When I explained it to my daughter, that her friend was getting a heart transplant, the first thing she asked me was, "Where did they grow it?"
At first, I thought she was confused, and thought I was talking about some sort of flower. The rare and beautiful hartrance plant. But no, she knew what I meant. It had been discussed in their class often, that Teresa was very sick and would one day need a new heart. Perhaps wisely, perhaps because none of the children asked, it was never discussed where this heart would come from.
My thinker, my problem solver, my simplifier of all things, my straight-forward and sharp as a tack Hannah...in her world where children do not die...pictured a miraculous farm somewhere, where doctors and farmers work together, growing hearts. Teresa was just waiting for hers to finish growing, like the little green beans they planted on the last day of school.
This is the same little girl that became obsessed with Michael Jackson and his overdose, and why doctors would give someone medicine that could hurt them. The same little girl who made me search for YouTube videos of open heart surgery. Not just any open heart surgery. The exact same one her brother had when he was a baby. This is the same girl who learned the intricacies of internal bleeding when she was four years old, because she had to understand what happened to Prince William's mommy. My oldest daughter is a very serious, no bull shit kind of girl.
So today, I am begging God for the life of a little girl.
First and foremost, because I know the bedside vigil all to well. I know about obsessively watching oxygen saturation, fluid output, respiration. I know sleeping in a chair with one hand on your child's chest, one hand holding theirs, just in case. I know how hard it is, how it defies biology, and everything you are as a mother, to hand your child over to a team of people who you know are going to
I know the blood, the tubes, the swelling. I know grieving their perfect little unmarked bodies, and getting accustomed to all the scars. We have been through major heart surgery. And we will go though it again, more than once. Any parent, any family, any sweet child, that goes through that battle deserves to come out on the other side.
But, secondly, perhaps even more urgently, I am pleading with God to keep this little girl alive, because of my little girl. With her chocolate brown eyes, and her million questions. I cannot bear the thought of having to explain to her that her friend did not survive.
Maybe if we all ask at once? 1, 2, 3, go...
I prayed, at first, a little Girl,
Because they told me to -- But stopped, when qualified to guess How prayer would feel -- to me --
If I believed God looked around, Each time my Childish eye Fixed full, and steady, on his own In Childish honesty --
And told him what I'd like, today, And parts of his far plan That baffled me -- The mingled side Of his Divinity --
And often since, in Danger, I count the force 'twould be To have a God so strong as that To hold my life for me
Till I could take the Balance That tips so frequent, now, It takes me all the while to poise -- And then -- it doesn't stay --