For me, this topic has some very real, and in the beginning, very sad memories. But the theme today is to not give up hope…..in other words… THIS TOO SHALL PASS!
Let me get through the sad part first to make a point……
On August 7, 1987 I received both the most exciting AND most terrifying news. After my wife had had two beautiful daughters, my very first son was born! These were exciting times! I had just resigned from my active duty military officer position to take on a new career as a stock broker (not knowing that just two months later we would experience the largest one-day loss in the history of the stock market). I was supercharged with excitement! I had plans for this young man….little league sports, going to sporting events, a possible future West Point cadet (I am a 1976 grad), and all of the other things that dads like to do with their sons! Little Ian Joseph Sanders was going to be a rock star!
The mood quickly turned from exuberence to fear when the doctor told us that our little angel “appeared” to have Downs Syndrome. It was going to take two weeks to verify the results of the blood work before we knew if the doctor’s thoughts were verified. I remember often praying to God to please “let him be a normal baby”. Prior to learning the blood test results, I took a trip to my alma mater and stood in front of the Cadet Chapel at West Point and looked out over the great expanse of the Cadet area with the beautiful and uplifting view of the Plain, Trophy Point, with the Hudson River in the background. West Point always inspires me, and I needed inspiration at this point in my life.
Fast forward…..Ian DID have Downs Syndrome and we soon learned what a blessing he was to our family! He did have many medical issues, but your baby is your baby, you love them and that love grows more and more over time. Ian had 5 surgeries before he was even two years old. The first, was open heart surgery when he was only 6 months old and weighed only 11 lbs. Historically, one of three babies at that age did not survive that surgery. I remember while in the waiting room at NYC Medical Center a doctor coming out and informing another set of parents that their baby had not survived the surgery. It struck fear in my heart as I watched them break down and awaited the news about my own son’s fate.
A little later, our surgeon came out and informed us that Ian had done very well! We were on Cloud Nine! Prior to that we had resigned ourself to the thought that God may choose to take Ian that day and we would accept whatever happened.
Ian had four more surgeries, one on each ear, and one on each hand in the upcoming months. By the age of two, he was on his way! His sisters Jillian and Bryn (who were older than Ian) and then later Kelly all loved their brother.
I wont focus on the details, but Ian passed away before his third birthday from pneumonia. He went into the hospital on December 23, 1989 and his mother joined him three days later as she also had contracted pneumonia. We all decided that we would put Christmas on hold that year until Ian came home from the hospital. Christmas and New Year’s Eve came and went. Ian’s mom was released from the hospital on January 3, 1990 and we were told by the doctor that Ian would be coming home soon!
We were all excited to “restart” our Christmas celebration (nobody had opened one present…we wanted our little guy there!)
On January 6, 1990 Ian’s mother took the call while I was out delivering newspapers. She was told very abruptly that “Ian had expired” with no further explanation. I got home from delivering newspapers and was greeted at the door by my father-in-law who gave me the bad news.
I cannot begin to share the grief that we all felt…only those who have lost a child would understand.
But , the whole point of my message today begins right now….
Of course, my first thought was disbelief. I remember one particular moment that actually got me back on my feet….I remember praying to God to “please bring him back, bring my son back, Downs Syndrome and all!”
Right after that prayer the big AHA MOMENT hit me….I realized that, in a span of less than three years, I had prayed to God for OPPOSITE outcomes!!! In August of 1987 I prayed for a “normal” baby, and then in January of 1990 I was praying for my Downs Syndrome baby back! It hit me that I was not in charge and that I had to accept what had happened. My healing began.
Today, all memories of the times with Ian are good ones. I feel blessed to have spent 29 months on this earth with him, and his spirit is alive and well in all who knew him!
Which leads me to totay’s point….this Coronavirus is scary and indiscriminate. It can lead us to deep depression if we allow it to. Now is the time to keep it all in perspective,,,,, this too shall pass, and it might not be on our timeframe….but we must be patient…haste makes waste and we must support each other, practice safe health habits, and love one another….from a distance.