Posted by: jmdenham | September 30, 2012

A Shell

On Thursday, I had a tough day.  But one thing was cool.  It was the afternoon when I met this awesome 3 year old boy.

He speaks Spanish, and his parents, sweet and kind and reflective as could be, also spoke Spanish.  This boy and his parents had been told that he has pulmonary hypertension, which is a lung disease that can be a silent stalking killer.  A kid may be alert, playful, fun loving, and shortly thereafter die, because it is so fast acting and because it acts up completely unexpectedly.  The first step in medical care: a PICC line, a line that essentially goes straight to the chest through the upper arm.  And his parents asked for prayer for this little child who seemed so scared.  He cried as they were preparing him for the procedure.

And then his parents asked for an emergent baptism, done in the two minutes or so right before the procedure, as those with pulmonary hypertension have a higher rate of vulnerability to coding (having a heart attack) in the PICC procedure.  So I did it.

I have done baptisms before but this one was special.  Not for the actual ceremony.  It had no special beauty or no intricately crafted words.  Sterile water, poured over the head three times in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  I told him before he was baptized that his parents have asked that he be baptized, and that this was a sign that God loves him and that his parents love him too.  Nothing special.  But what was so special, is that I used a shell for the baptism, holding the water that I poured.  And after the baptism, he cried as some water fell into his eye, but he became so intrigued by the shell.  This little sea shell amongst all his toys was the center of his interest.  He pulled it gently from my hands and then observed it a little from a couple angles, finding great joy in its white and grayish blue colors.  Then he moved it to the palm of his hand, and gripped tightly.  His parents were incredibly appreciative and incredibly teary.  But no matter, even when they tried to take him for his PICC line, right into the OR, he continued gripping that shell.

And as he went under through anesthesia, he was found gripping the shell.  And during the surgery, he gripped the shell.  And…almost to my chagrin and bringing tears to my eyes, he came out, and he woke up with the same old boyish excitement, he was still gripping tightly the shell.

A simple shell, white and grayish blue, ridged in some places and flat at others.  But a sign of the love of God and love of family.  That’s something to hold onto.  (And that precious smile I got when I gave him my favorite toy- a punching frog pen is also something worth holding onto.)

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