There are things you know to be true on some heady, intellectual level, but you don’t really accept them deep down in your bones. Then comes the moment when, no matter how you work to avoid it, reality crashes into your life like an earthquake, screaming: “What you think might have happened, well, it actually did happen and there is no way you can hide from it now.”
That moment happened for me when my then sister-in-law looked me in the eye and said, as gently as she could, “We need to make some decisions.”
She handed me several full-color, glossy brochures for small coffins.
Which one did I want to buy for my daughter?
The two weeks before that moment was a violent, nightmarish, blur: Our nearly 1-year-old daughter hospitalized due to constant vomiting. An ambulance ride to the dank, cramped and crowded old Children’s Hospital in Denver. Nights squeezed into a double hospital room with another family in crisis, connected to yet another double room by a tiny shared bathroom. The MRI showing the lemon-sized tumor in her brain. The tubes surgically implanted into her tiny lovely head to drain out fluid and pump in chemicals. The doctor passing sentence that it was an incurable cancer. She had, maybe, weeks. Her dying just hours, not weeks, after bringing her home. Handing her perfect little body to some stranger who drove up in a hearse. The quiet that cruelly filled every space of our once raucous house.
But holding that glossy piece of paper touting the features of a metal box that would forever hold my first, my only child, my perfect beautiful little Parker, made it real. It wasn’t a dream. I wasn’t going to wake up.
Lying next to Parker in that metal box is her little purple bear, in some pathetic, odd hope it can keep her company.
I’ll spare you the details of the darkness that followed. But I’ll gladly share the hope that came to me when another baby girl, Piper, came to save my life, quite literally.
And then another little person arrived, but something was wrong.
My son, Chance, was born with a genetic disorder, Down Syndrome. At three weeks he required open-heart surgery to save his life. That meant going back to that torture chamber where my daughter suffered: Children’s Hospital. If I could dynamite that hellhole, I would.
Fortunately, a lot of good people basically did it for me. Investing more money than I can imagine, they moved Children’s Hospital Colorado to a sunny, roomy, happy new building on the Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora. And over the years in this great place, brave people have saved me from losing another child. Chance has gone through 14 surgeries in his 13 years, most at the new hospital.
With his unique reckless appetite for life Chance, who we rightly call “Chance the Man,” is the frat brother I never had. But without Children’s, I’d be looking at those brochures again.
I have written in support of Children’s before. The message is worth repeating.
People who donate to Children’s save lives. One small group, often adorned by little purple bears, does something more. They help keep the memory of Chance’s sister alive. They’re called “Team Parker.”
Spurred on by my friend and co-worker Tracy Smith, Team Parker peddles through the Colorado Rockies every year for the Children’s Hospital Courage Classic, their fundraising bike riding event. They connect Parker with the brother who will never meet her. Over the last few years they’ve peddled their way to over $75,OOO to help children like mine.
I’m guessing you haven’t thought about what gifts like theirs could mean to your family. But that ugly moment of reality could crash into you at any time. It did for me twice. And when it happens, you’ll be humbled and grateful that people from Phil Anschutz to Team Parker put Children’s in your backyard before you needed it.
I’m asking you to take a moment right now and give a few bucks to Children’s. Please. Help keep little people, like Chance the Man alive.