I was boarding a flight to be with my best friend and her little man Big E during his recovery from open heart surgery. I can't believe it was a year ago. Despite the circumstances, it is one of my most cherished Thanksgiving memories.
Taking that flight meant leaving my husband and one-year old daughter to fend for themselves on Thanksgiving. Most of that fending took place in the form of a prepared meal from the local market. And they did just fine without me.
Taking that flight also meant being with someone I love very much at a time when she needed me. What a powerful and amazing feeling ... to know (or at least hope) that my presence could make a difference ... lift a spirit, bring a little sense of calm, be a familiar face, give a hug, ...
As soon as I landed, I was able to see Emmett - amongst a tangle of tubes and wires - in the hospital. I held his mommy's hand while we watched his heart rate on the monitor. I did my best to understand the medical explanations and concerns. I kissed Emmett's swollen eyes and whispered any words of encouragement I could muster for this sweet little fighter. I fought back tears and tried to comprehend how and why such a thing has to happen to anyone ... let alone the baby boy of my best friend.
It seemed impossible that we would have to leave Emmett lying there by himself (with a full staff of nurses and doctors caring for him), but eventually we did tear ourselves away and walked reluctantly to the parking lot. After all, it was Thanksgiving - and we did have much to be thankful for - but we also had empty stomachs. I considered it part of my mission to make sure Missy and her husband had some semblance of a turkey dinner. As we drove around the town, just about everything was closed ... except a Marie Callander's restaurant. Hey, her pot pies aren't half bad, and her Thanksgiving dinner was actually pretty good! We shared a bottle of red wine and a hot meal, and that was all that really mattered for about 60 minutes of our lives. We reminisced and laughed and felt thankful to be together.
After many nights at the Ronald McDonald House, it was decided that a hotel room would be a welcome change. Missy was able to take a hot bath, one of her favorite treats. And we were all able to get a good night's sleep before heading back to the hospital to see Emmett. His condition had actually improved over night. He could open his eyes some, and boy, did he light up when he saw his mommy and daddy. Despite all the tubes, Missy was able to hold him in a chair and give some snuggles. What a beautiful moment to see Emmett back in his mommy's arms, back where he needed to be ... suddenly, everything was right in the world!
I also introduced Emmett to a new little friend, a lion that he still carries around today.
The remaining hours before my return flight were spent just marveling at Emmett's bravery and reveling in his improving condition.
Big E spent about another week recovering before returning home. This was his first of three open heart surgeries. His second is scheduled to take place a few weeks from now, and the final will hopefully happen this summer.
I am so thankful to know ...
the bravery of this little guy
the limitless love parents have for their children
the abilities of modern medicine
the miracles of compassion
the blessings of a healthy child
the strength of a friendship