As soon as we signed in at the cancer floor there was a man, holding a clipboard, waiting to talk to me. He handed me the clipboard that held paperwork for me to sign to give permission that Yousuf could be recorded for an upcoming fundraiser they were preparing for. Yousuf ran over to see their puppet performance while I sat on the couch filling out the paperwork. While flipping through pages on the clipboard a little girl caught my glance as she came running in the room. She ran straight to the colorful cow statue and sat underneath it. It was then that I caught HER eye. Her face lit up and she smiled when she saw me, as if she knew me. She was a very pretty little girl with long golden colored curls framing her tiny little 19 month old baby face. She was adorable and I was delighted when she approached me. Her parents were standing close by but seemingly lost in place and in thought. It was only when she kept bringing me books and dumping them in my lap did they stop and apologize. I told them no need to apologize she is very sweet. Again, her parents would seem to drift off in thought, as if in a new world, not one they seemed to be too happy about being in either. While she was rummaging through the books on the shelf (which she seemed to love) her dad said aloud if there were any Elmo books, since she loves Elmo. No Elmo, so Veggie Tales had to do. So she brought the book to me and opened it. As I began to read to her I realized that maybe that could make her parents uncomfortable since they seemed very aloof and reserved. I asked them if it was okay. Her dad said that she wouldn’t hear me anyway and would just keep grabbing more books. I asked her name and how old she was because she very friendly. They said her name was Paxton and she was 19 months old. It was then that their pager went off. Her dad scooped her up and told her to say thank you, but instead of saying it she and her dad put their hand to their chin used sign language to communicate it me. They walked off and I was left confused and feeling kind of silly. Was she deaf that whole time and that’s why her dad said she wouldn’t be able to hear the book? Or were they just teaching her the sign language as a way to communicate better with her since she’s under the age of talking? Either way that sweet little girl Paxton, with her bright long curly hair, keeps popping up in my mind and my dreams.
I envisioned her journey similar to Yousuf’s. I could tell they were new and theirs was just beginning. I imagined her hair shedding strand by strand and seeing it on her pillow case, clothes, and in her food. Her parents watching their beautiful little girl transform into a bald chubby-faced child they no longer recognized. It was sad what I imagined but it may not be far from the reality, after all they are in the cancer center.
I’m glad that I came across her. I’m glad that I was reminded about “the before” and how seeing the most lively beautiful little person how quickly that image or reality can change with a simple diagnosis….a car accident, an injury or abduction. I confess that, at times when I a person rubs me the wrong way or I find someone I don’t necessarily click with or like, I imagine them bald holding an infusion tower and my feeling immediately changes to that of mercy. You can’t help but allow those images to shake your heart, no matter who it is.
Little kids, like Paxton, like Yousuf, remind us that these gifts, these beautiful things we have, not only in our hands, but our hands themselves are blessings from God. We cannot let ourselves forget that because if we do, we lose the most valuable gift: our hearts.
This is for you, Paxton…an Elmo book you didn’t find that day on the shelf. It will be waiting for you with your name on it. I hope it finds you happy, strong, and with the fastest recovery and healing.