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A Slice of Life

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I sat in a hospital room with my seven-year-old son, the blood pressure cuff inflating and counting down, his heart rate registering on a monitor. After months of being in and out of Children’s Hospital with a mysterious illness, he was about to go under anesthesia for a biopsy and extensive blood work. My nerves were strained and my stomach was churning, but I had on a brave face for my son.

Our nurse was an angel. She was kind and funny, engaged with my son and answered both of our questions. My son responded to her with ease and a smile. She was just like all the wonderful nurses we encountered at Children’s—but she had only one eye.

As adults, and most children who understand social norms, would do, we treated her as we do every person. But then, to settle my son’s nerves before the procedure, they gave him medication to help him relax. And relax he did, both physically and with all his inhibitions.

He looked up at our nurse with a big grin and asked, “What’s wrong with your eye?” I froze, every instinct not wanting to offend. But before I could correct him, our nurse smiled and said, “Well, that’s a very good question. When I was a little girl, I had lots of tumors on my brain and had to have a bunch of surgeries. During one of those surgeries, I lost my eye and they had to stitch it closed.”

This satisfied my son, and we carried on with the day’s procedure.

Our nurse was back in post-op, reassuring and kind, bolstering up his worried parents. “My parents endured a lot of this when I was a child,” she confided. “And they say the only way they got through it was a lot of prayer.”

That gave me goosebumps. In that moment—and in many others while at the hospital—God has given us a wink and nod. He’s with us in Spirit, yes, but also in the people who are caring for us and for our son.

In thinking about celebrating Respect Life Month this year, my mind repeatedly returns to that moment in the hospital: my child, who we now know has a chronic but manageable illness, speaking with a nurse who also battled a chronic illness. How easy it would be to dismiss them if we knew, in utero, what they would one day face. Yet, there they were together in that moment, full of dignity, joy, optimism and faith. They respected one another’s medical trials and helped solidify for me what it means for every human to possess inherent dignity.

As we celebrate Respect Life Month in October, I challenge you to look for these moments, especially with people who you perceive as different from yourself. Remember their dignity as children of God and pray for those who are not yet born.

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