I spoke recently to a friend whose daughter gave birth to a child they knew was not going to live. Indeed, it was a miracle that the child was not stillborn. “People tiptoe around us,” she said. “They’re afraid to ask. But every day of her life was a blessing. She made a bigger impact on the world in twenty-seven days than a lot of people do in ninety years.”
What would you do differently if you knew you only had twenty-seven days?
I would order out every meal. Shower only occasionally. Sleep with the baby, and “safety” be hanged. I would touch her face and breathe in her scent and try hard not to blink. I would take a thousand pictures and not bother to check if they were in focus. I would drink deep of the holiness of the moment, and let joy and grief coexist, mingling and melding until the tears that spilled over couldn’t be classified as one or the other.
And when it was over, I’d worry about everything else.
You can’t live ordinary life with that kind of intensity. Other children need their parents; there are deadlines to be met, commitments to be honored, paychecks to be earned and bills to be paid.
But as I sit and type, the three-month-old on my lap looks up at me with bright charcoal eyes and gurgles and coos at the woman who is the center of his universe, his first experience of God, of perfect, unconditional love. And his nose crinkles, and his mouth opens into a huge smile I never can quite capture. And the world has to stop for this moment, because this moment–this one–will never come again. There will be others, but this one is passing away forever and I want to hold the beauty of it, not just in my memory, but in my very skin and bones and heart.
And that is one more lesson taught by a child I never met. A child who lived only twenty-seven days.