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The Smallest Gift

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At the end of February, I embarked on a journey to save my father’s life. At the time, I didn’t really know just how much I would have to endure. Perhaps it is best. I brought my then 9-month-old son along, creating a separation from my husband that was the longest we’ve ever tolerated. It was far more difficult than we all had prepared ourselves for.

My father had ignored his health and become bed-ridden. He was in complete denial about the state of his body, and that is why I flew back to Texas. I was the only one who could badger and anger him enough to do something about it. His stubbornness was matched only by his need to keep secrets.

A week and a half trip ended up being over a month long. Within two days of my stay, I had put my father into the hospital. He was diagnosed with severe congestive heart failure, edema, heart disease, and lung disease. He would get better, and then get worse. Every day, I drove to the hospital to stay with him. Every day, I brought my son. I was taking care of my mother (who was having daily seizures and health issues), my son, and my father. It felt like the great big karmic skies had opened up and dumped everything upon me at once.

Throughout the ordeal, my son was incredible. I knew he would be a shining light among the dark clouds, but I had no idea just how fantastic he would be. Amos lit up everyone around him. Doctors, nurses, other patients, and anyone who came within ten feet of us were mesmerized by his presence. I knew he was cute, but come on. How can one kid have that much pizzazz?

My family life had never been something filled with happiness. I tend to dread family get-togethers. Preparing myself to be bombarded with questions about religion, food preferences, politics, and hunting has always seemed like training for a sporting event. “No, I’m not a Commie. No, I’m not a vegetarian; I just eat less meat than you.��? Even my decision to use a midwife was ridiculed (“She used a witch!��?) Having Amos to partially shield me from the nonsense was a benefit I hadn’t expected from childbirth.

In the end, my father passed away. It was traumatic for all of us, yet Amos continued to save the day. I didn’t have to be strong all of the time, just most of the time. During those moments when I felt I couldn’t take it, Amos seemed to carry me through. His smile, his laughter, and his boundless joy and innocence were a stark contrast to the prevailing mood.

That month of mother-and-son time bonded me closer to Amos than I thought possible. He showed me that even someone so tiny and seemingly helpless has the power to heal, unify, and love. In the absence of his father, Amos became the man of the family, the comedy relief, and the perfect distraction from the pain of losing a loved one. Someday, I’ll tell him about the time he saved his mother. I doubt that there will be only one story to tell.

It’s not always easy to admit when help is needed. During a time of crisis, did someone lift you up?

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