When the tumor was discovered, and the nightmare began, and we were spending most nights in shared, noisy hospital rooms, and my two-year-old was restrained, tested and terrorized, and it felt like we had descended into the pits of hell, I posted a Facebook status about how John and I wished we could shelter Andrew from the horror, the way that Roberto Benigni’s character, Guido, attempted to do so for his son in the movie, ‘Life is Beautiful’.
Unfortunately, we very quickly realized that this would be an impossible task. Surgery and recovery and more surgery and needles and a protruding port and 4 am ER visits and bi-weekly chemo drips and soft blonde hair falling out in handfuls and immobilizing pain and regular blood transfusions and six weeks of radiation and fevers and mouth sores so painful he would stare at cupcakes but couldn’t eat them and more needles and a life-threatening bacterial infection and tubes attached to his chest making it impossible for him to run around… were difficult to pretend or laugh away. And, as much as I wished to put on a good face and be strong for him, Andrew still, frequently, found me in tears. They were just too difficult to hold back.
But, over time, as I have listened to Andrew share his memories, I have come to realize that perhaps he was sheltered, just not in the way we imagined. When he describes his experiences in the hospital, he remembers the puzzles we put together, and the games we played, and the cartoons we watched at midnight. He remembers the exciting flight to Houston, where we lived in a house with an elevator, and played video games all day, and went to amusement parks by the ocean, and both Grandmas lived with us. He remembers packages filled with hats and gummy worms, and paint-it-yourself trucks from hospital toy closets, and turning out lights to scare doctors, and hiding in cabinets of examination tables.
He remembers the good stuff! And, I listen, teary-eyed and incredulous.
Today, Andrew turns five!!! It has been a treacherous journey, and I am amazed every time I look at him. He is happy, and energetic, and curious, and playful, and sweet, and picks me flowers whenever he finds them (sorry, neighbors!). He is social, affectionate, and full of humor. He makes me laugh. Every day. He loves his friends, and mazes, and dot-to-dots, and preschool. He has no doubt that Jesus loves him and lives somewhere in his heart.
He STILL believes that life is beautiful.
And I am so grateful. Happy Birthday, my sweet boy. I pray, and hope, and beg, and plead that you have many, many, more.