Priceless

I experienced some serious stage fright today, on my way to speak to Abbie’s future classmates. Not because I was scared of a roomful of third-graders, but rather because I felt such pressure to do a good job for Abbie. I went there to win their hearts, to lovingly ask them to befriend my precious girl, and to be Abbie’s voice. I prayed out loud all during the drive, because I felt such a sacred responsibility to Abbie.

The time with the kids was wonderful! They listened intently, asked good questions, and were very upbeat. I almost lost it before I started, as one of the little girls placed a lei around my neck – such an unexpected kindness.

I think it really helped that they met Abbie on Monday. I described some of the special things Abbie has, like a G-tube button, suction machine, and communication devices. We also did activities to help them understand what it’s like to have spasticity, and a brain where answers may take longer to process, but are still correct. It was a lot of information to throw at them, but I started and ended with the most important thing: Abbie may be a little different on the outside, but on the inside she is just like them.

Then, I said, “Abbie’s invitation to you is to be part of a miracle. There are many who would say she should not be alive. Many said she would never breathe on her own, but she does. They said she would never see – and for a while she didn’t. But, now she does. They said she would never talk, but she’s trying. They said she would never read, but she does. They said she would never do math…but she loves it. Because of all these things, many people, including me, call her a miracle. Sometimes you have to wait your whole life to be part of a miracle, and sometimes it comes right to your classroom door. So, Abbie would like to invite you to be part of her miracle – YOU can help her get better!”

As I was leaving, Mrs. T, Abbie’s regular-ed teacher handed me a book made by her classmates. How do you turn printer paper into gold? Cover it with love, and illustrate it with joy. On each page was a picture of one classmate, along with a letter written to Abbie. Although I cannot scan any of it to show you, I must share some of the phrases that brought tears to my eyes.

One girl ended her letter by saying, “If anything ever happens to you, I will always be there for you.” One boy ended his letter with, “We will be happy to have another member of the class.” A girl said, ‘I will teach you how to do something you like to do at school.” Such tender hearts!

Abbie looked carefully at each photograph, and was excited to hear how many of her classmates also enjoy reading, math, and music. At first, she will mostly see her classmates on the playground, but I am even more hopeful now that she will not be lonely out there! What a precious, long-awaited gift they have to give Abbie, and what fills my heart is that they realize it, I think. They glimpse the special role they may play in a very special girl’s life.

God is good!

Spectacles

We visited the neuro-ophthalmologist for the first time in four years last Friday. So much time had lapsed because I didn’t really see the need for frequent follow-ups, since assessing Abbie’s vision with charts was pretty much impossible.

Once again, Abbie’s journey has made me thankful for technology. It turns out that there is now a computer that can measure and test the eyes without any participation from the patient. The optometrist got the first measurement, said, “hmmmm”, and then repeated it. The machine spit out readings that showed Abbie is pretty darn near-sighted. She is now about the age I was when my eyesight went off the cliff.

We then saw the ophthalmologist, who confirmed the readings the old-fashioned way, with a light and varying lenses, which was even more impressive to me than technology. He got the same results. -3.75 in one eye, -3.25 in the other. He felt that since she is reading, and has enough vision to see near objects, we should not feel required to get her glasses. My bias, however, is to make everything easier for Abbie whenever I possibly can. I think that her nearsightedness could explain why she does not engage in things across a room, rather then just chalking it up to brain injury as we’ve always done. So, I am excited to see if a cute pair of glasses (pink and purple are available) will broaden her world.

Speaking of broadening her world, Abbie went on her first school field trip on Monday, even though she hasn’t officially started school. We met all the third-graders at the high school gym just up the road. The high school “Health Academy” students were putting on a health fair for third-graders from many schools. So, it was noisy and full of energy. Abbie had been on oxygen earlier in the morning, prompting a decision to cancel. But, once she got better, we went because I knew her heart was set on it. I am so glad we did.

The regular-ed teacher is wonderful, and assured that Abbie was included in everything. At one station, empty packages of various snacks and drinks were passed out for kids to assess their sugar content. Abbie looked at hers carefully, and then we measured out the 22g of sugar to see exactly how much of it is contained in 5 little miniature Reese’s peanut butter cups. Yikes!!! Don’t think I’ll be eating any more of those….ever.

Mrs. T, the teacher, had read part of a story I’ve written in Abbie’s voice to the children, explaining her life. They were very curious about Abbie, but the forum did not allow them to interact with her much. I will be going to read the rest of the story, answer questions, and do some show-and-tell this Thursday. Would you please pray that most of all I can leave them with open hearts, so that Abbie will be warmly and boldly welcomed in January?

Another spectacle today has caused a time of introspection for me, as it has for many in these islands, I am sure. “The Eddie” ran today — or, more properly, The Quicksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau Big Wave Surf Contest. For those outside Hawaii, this contest can only be run when waves top 20 feet, so the last time it ran was 2004. Today, with wave faces of 35-45 feet, Waimea Bay was packed with folks watching out for the figures dwarfed by the waves. Brave, crazy, both? But what gives pause is not only the improbability of surfers riding life-threatening waves, but remembering Eddie, a man who perfectly embodied John 15:13, “Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” You can read a good summary of his story here.

Striking, shocking, willing sacrifice. And while I am sure that people like Eddie would disagree with those first two adjectives, I pray that we more often are struck by goodness, shocked by love, and inspired to magnify those qualities in our own lives.

“Eddie Would Go”….and so should we.