Every once in a while, somebody tells you a story that makes all your problems look small, and your vision feel blurred. That is the sense I’ve been getting these past three weeks, watching the status updates on my friend Bridget’s Facebook page. They concern her daughter, who was born on April 15th, and whom Bridget and her husband brought home immediately, pending the formalization of their agreement to adopt her.
Before spooning up the details, I should make it clear that Bridget and I have never met. Our friendship is one of those things that could only have happened on the internet. We met over seven years ago on a discussion board. It was partly her quiet confidence in God — and, paradoxically, her boisterous sense of humor about everything and everyone else — that made first made me receptive to Catholicism. To mark the occasion of my baptism, Bridget contributed to the my spiritual bouquet, a mammonth tangle of medals, scapulars and booklets of prayers — plus a plenary indulgence from Pope Benedict — that almost burst the envelope it arrived in.
Bridget and her husband had already adopted two boys, both Guatemalans, both loud, messy, active and fun. What they expected when they adopted their daughter I don’t know, but what they got must rank among the scares of their lives. Within days of her birth, the baby was in the intensive-care unit. It emerged that she suffered from a number of congenital heart problems. “Aortic coarctation, aortic stenosis, and VSD,” are the ones Bridget named. She added, “among others,” as if, somehow, those three weren’t enough.
The diagnosis came on Holy Thursday. As Bridget put it, “We’ve been in the hospital ever since.” Twice, the doctors scheduled an operation; both times, they were forced to postpone — the first time because another child was in more immediate need of surgery, the second time because they detected an infection in Ella’s blood.
If nothing else, the delays have given Bridget plenty of time to reflect. Here’s the meaning she attaches to her family’s predicament:
It will be interesting, to say the least, to see how all of this plays out, to see how God’s plan comes to fruition. We’ve been able to go to daily Mass here at the hospital, and a recent homily on the topic helped. The priest said (paraphrasing) that God doesn’t reveal His entire plan to us all at once because the shock would probably kill us. We wouldn’t be able to handle it, for good or for bad, I would guess. I kind of have to agree with that. What would our reaction have been to all of this if we knew from the get-go what was going to happen? Who knows but God? All I know now is that I lovelovelove Ella fiercely and ridiculously, and I can’t imagine our family without her. It happened just that quickly.
My dad told me something a little while ago, too, that stuck with me. I think he heard it in a homily, too. I don’t remember all the back story, but the priest said that his mom told him one day, “The Lord didn’t tell us to drag our cross and follow Him. He said to carry it.” (Or words to that effect.) So I carry this cross because it’s mine to carry. And I think I have to help Ella carry hers, too, just by being her mom and because I’m stronger than she is right now.
Now do you see why I think so highly of Bridget? By my lights, she’s carrying her cross like it’s a golf bag. Honestly, I couldn’t arrive at such a serene place after a dozen years of therapy. If anyone tried preaching these lessons to me before I was in the mood to hear them, I’d be tempted to crease his head with the nearest pool cue.
Bridget is a regular Anchoress reader. In fact, she got here before I did. (I’m ashamed to admit, I have not been above name-dropping. “Why I said to Elizabeth just the other day, ‘Elizabeth,’ I said…”) If you readers have any prayers left in your, I’d ask you to spare a few for Bridget, her daughter, and the rest of her family.
After all, here at the Anchroress, every day is Mothers’ Day.