The Boy With a Broken Heart is Born (Day Six)

The Boy With a Broken Heart is Born (Day Six) May 7, 2012

I wrote a story a while back about a family in our church back in Pueblo whose baby was due just after we left town. Early in the pregnancy, doctors diagnosed little Avery with HLHS, Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome. There was a good chance he’d need surgery in utero or immediately after being born, and there was a formidable chance that he wouldn’t survive the procedure. There was also, of course, a higher than normal risk to Lyndsay, the mother, too.

It was hopeful watching the church family rally around the Vigils, praying for them, bringing them meals, visiting and doing what they could to offer support in what I’m sure felt like a time of emotional free-fall. It was also weird to know that, when Avery actually came, we wouldn’t be there.

Avery's first day as an oxygen-breathing member of the human race.

That day was today.

I got a message from Dave, the dad, this afternoon with photos of the newest member of the Vigil and Milagro families. He weighed in at a hefty seven-plus pounds and his APGAR scores (a test of health for newborns) was even higher than either of our kids. He’s being monitored in the NICU, and his first surgery is scheduled for Thursday. Mommy is happy and resting, and she even called Amy to fill her in.

It’s all pretty much as good as could be hoped for, given the circumstances.

There’s so much that’s weird about this, I’m not even sure where to start. For one, we’re told that, when we leave the church, we really have to leave it. We’ve known people who have un-friended everyone on Facebook from the congregation they’re leaving, but that just seems cruel to me. Yes, we’re no longer their pastors, but we are their friends, and we shared our lives with them, as much as they have shared theirs with us.

So where’s the line? Are text messages okay? I hope so, because I wrote Dave back as soon as his proud papa photos hit my phone. We are sharing in their joy and relief, even if from a distance. But what about the phone call? I mean, can’t we keep in touch about the most important moments in these people’s lives, especially since they have no new pastor to guide them through what still will be a challenging time, even with the first major hurdle cleared?

Well, can’t we?

The truth is I have no idea. We’re making it up as we go along, which is one consequence of the flatter model of church governance we’re a part of. We have regional and national ministries, but they don’t really have much power over local congregations.  I suppose I could be scolded when some pencil pusher reads this, but there’s really not much they can do about it. We’re left to ourselves to decide where the line of appropriate contact is.

And for now, it moves as is necessary for us to hopefully keep some healthy distance, while also not trying to act like heartless assholes.

It’s hard enough to celebrate from several hundred miles away. It also didn’t help that she called us from her hospital room while we were sitting poolside in Las Vegas.

I guess that is kind of asshole-ish, right?

Anyway, we celebrated with them by speaker-phone and, of course, Amy cried some more. Can’t get enough of that on this trip, really. And then we hung up and they went about their lives and we, ours. So strange to be so intimately connected to people one day, and the next, you’re observing their lives as if through glass. There’s still a connection, but it’s not the same.

Amy closes the distance with prayer; I’ still not sure what to pray for. I’m not the kind of guy who believes in praying for results, so instead I sent out a simple blessing of gratitude.

For little Avery.

For his family.

For Milagro, who is still there for them.

And even for the distance that makes this so damn confusing.

In all things give thanks, says the Good Book, so I guess I can’t go wrong with that. I’m not always sure how or why, but maybe with a few more decades of practice, it’ll all start to make some sense.

Happy birthday, little Avery.

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  • I believe whatever you do and feel is right will be right.  You have your God, friends and family all in your corner.  Please believe that.  BTW, you both were missed and spoken about with warmest regards and Love during the Regional Feast. 

  • As a pastor my family and I have made that move and I know exactly what you mean. The only thing you can do is to improvise your way through it. What I found is that I could be a friend but I had to draw the line when they wanted me to continue to be their pastor. A young man committed suicide a few months after we left and his family begged for me to come back and preside at the funeral. Saying no to that request crushed me. 

    God speed in this transition.

  • Lyndsay Vigil

    I met you as a pastor, but we keep you as friends. Love to you both, always. I am glad to hear you were poolside. You deserve it!

  • Karen

    Yes, there’s still a connection.  We’ve shared our lives, our thoughts, and our hearts.  There will be distance in miles, but not in our thoughts.  I wish and pray for happiness and successes in all shapes and forms for you, Amy, and the kids.

  • You are right on track.  Follow your heart, not someone else’s sense of what is “right.”  Jesus did not get permission from anyone to minister to who God led him to.

  • Paul Freeman

    My blessings with you as you are going through this transition on how to address the congregation you’ve left behind and begin to focus on the new one you are headed toward.  Since I’ve been in the transition period a couple of times,  there still is that tug for the previous church, because you hope there will be a long time friendship that was developed with Milagro, which is good.  You may find yourself or Amy being called to assist with family matters in the future.  If so, encourage these “friends” to rely on the new pastor, or Interim pastor.  Then if they are comfortable with your involvement, then you could do it.  I know you know that, but still its good to reaffirm the friendships you have with them and celebrate/grieve/pray for them as you see fit.