The plan was to paint a giant mural of mountains on one wall of his nursery. We hung the new curtains and assembled furniture. It was clean and organized, waiting for the guest of honor. The only task left was that mural. There wasn’t time to finish it. At 34 weeks, Jackson Lee decided to make his appearance.
He was a fighter from day one. What he lacked in physical stamina he made up for in ridiculous adorableness. He’s our sixth grandchild, but it doesn’t get less exciting. It certainly doesn’t get less concerning when there are issues. It’s complex and multilayered for grandparents: You anguish for the child and the parents.
Just a few hours before he drew his first breath, a lifelong friend took her final one after a brave battle with cancer. An entire community swarmed around that family and began to grieve the deep absence that would be felt in so many lives. You never know the impact of a life until that voice is silent. A mountain of active compassion and sincere condolences will help them get through rough days ahead.
Jackson was just 1 day old when a neighbor’s pit bull got out and killed one of our pregnant dairy does. It was infuriating and extremely sad. It’s not the first time I’ve cut through the hide of a beloved dead animal to get to babies inside. Other neighbors, kind neighbors, showed up, with willing and available hands and shoulders to cry on.
You watch your daughter attempt to be brave as she’s struggling to resist the urge to escape that NICU room. She’s a nurse, used to wires and machines, but this is her tiny baby — her flesh and blood. You feel utterly helpless. Your heart cannot take such ache and sorrow. Caring for their 15-month-old son so they could be at the hospital gave me a sense of comfort, not to mention a worthy distraction.
It took a month for Jackson to be steady enough where we felt we could finally let out some air. I witnessed so much community and neighborly support in many ways in those 30 days. Strangers also reached out, offering help and encouragement, and did lots of sharing so even more people could get on board with their thoughts and prayers. There were so many people trying to help Jackson climb this mountain in so many different parts of the country and world. But still that wall of his nursery was bare.
Move the mountain
Then finally, the report from the isolation NICU room was what we had prayed for: improvement. Nothing bad to report. No dangerous levels or numbers. What that looks like to an exhausted and weary momma and daddy is hope. That’s what we need to scale any obstacle or trial and keep moving.
Sometimes we need a whole team of specialized doctors and nurses. Sometimes we need a whole community to grieve with us. Sometimes we simply need someone to show up at our door willing to help and willing to listen. I don’t know that I will ever be more overjoyed to paint anything as I will to create those mountains on that sweet baby’s wall. We truly believe this boy was created to move them.
McClain writes from Greenwood, Ind.