Raising two children is a task in and of itself, and when you throw dilated cardiomyopathy, brain injuries, and two heart transplants in the mix, it gets downright chaotic. There have been many times when I felt like I was pushing a three-ton rock up a steep hill and just when I thought I had things under control, the rock would go tumbling down the hill, dragging me with it. Round and round we'd go, the boulder and I, finally landing in a disheveled heap at the bottom of an abyss. Looking up, what did I see but yet another hill. A steeper one. So it goes.
But every now and then, a moment of clarity comes through. A burst of understanding, of knowing that the effort is not unnoticed, and not unrewarded. I had one of those moments this weekend.
We took the kids to the Mall of America to visit the MN Sea Life Aquarium. The girls have always shown an immense love of all things that live in the sea. No matter how many times we visit the aquarium, their enjoyment and awe is always as fresh as the very first time we went. This visit was no exception. Madi and Sydney oohed and aahed at the giant tank of rays, and gasped when they spotted the neon-green eel wrapping itself around a rock. They "petted" starfish and sea urchins, and were over-the-moon excited at the tanks of jellyfish. As I watched these creatures swim past (or overhead, in the case of the part of the aquarium that's in a tunnel), I tried to look through my daughters' eyes. Such a simple thing as a turtle seemingly near enough to touch brought them such great happiness.
Then it was off to Nickelodeon Universe, the Mall of America's indoor amusement park. The lights, the sounds, the shrieks of delight from people on the various rides, was so exciting to my children. Madi got to ride on the ferris wheel, and literally skipped her way into the line with her daddy. My sister, Sydney and I waited on the ground below, and waved furiously every time we saw that little blond head go past. After that, Madi and Sydney both got to take a ride on the carousel. It was Sydney's very first time on a ride of any kind. She had always been either too little or too sick to be able to enjoy a ride, something that was always heartbreaking to me. I wondered if she would be a bit scared, but that worry quickly passed. She sat up on that horse, laughing and waving like nobody's business. Her smile was as wide as I have ever seen it, truly what you could describe as a "megawatt" grin. It took my breath away, and brought tears to my eyes. For that moment in time, Sydney was "just" a kid, having a great time with her parents, sister and auntie. She didn't have to stop for therapy or medication, or have a doctor's permission. Her only requirement was to "remain seated for the duration of the ride." Just like everyone else.
Without an organ donor, she wouldn't have had that moment. As the carousel kept spinning, full of bright lights and calliope music, I said a whispered thank you to the donor family for this moment, and for all the moments that Sydney gets to have. (And Madi too!) I prayed that somewhere out there, the thought that their loved one lives on in a bright, happy, beautiful sunshine girl brings them a bit of peace. I prayed that they could feel my overwhelming gratitude and love for them. And then I went to meet my family as they got off the carousel, my girls grinning like fools.
Praying at the carousel... who'd have thunk? Just goes to show you, "church" is anywhere and everywhere. Faith is in your heart, especially if you are blessed enough to have a transplanted one.