When we brought home our youngest son, Max, from China last year, we knew that he would need some medical care. But we didn’t know exactly what he would need until we had him evaluated back in the States. We are so fortunate to be living only minutes away from an amazing children’s hospital with a well-known neurosurgeon there. While this is beyond anything I had ever done before as a mom, I felt secure in the doctor and the plan of care. We scheduled surgery for November and so, as a mom of four other kids, I prepared.
We were told our stay would be for a week. With that length of stay, I knew we were going to need some help. But without family in town, it can be tricky. The planner in me got to work: I informed the school and his teacher, I asked friends to drive my middle boys to piano and dance classes. My high school boys were told that they would have to help with the younger brothers and basically parent themselves.
Finally, I knew that I would not be cooking, so I went on Take Them A Meal, set up a schedule, and then sent out the link to friends, neighbors and members of my church (I use this website to help others when they have a baby or other life-changing event). Amazingly, the meal schedule was filled by the next day. A few days before the surgery, we were set and ready to go. All my ducks were in a row.
And then, as it happens so often in life, things did not go as planned.
The day before surgery, I came down with a terrible cold. I was coughing so badly that they would not allow me in the hospital. And so, I stayed home while my husband bravely took our son on his own to have surgery that day.
And that is when our community rallied around us:
Breakfast that morning was delivered.
Friends poured into the hospital to take turns sitting with my husband during and after surgery. Treating him to coffee, a sandwich, brownies and conversation.
One friend had my 8-year-old over after school then another rounded up he and two more brothers and drove them to the hospital to visit for a while.
A coworker brought me chicken soup with lots of extra goodies.
My running buddy left us cookies.
That same running buddy brought us breakfast for the next morning.
Another family friend had the middle boys over for pizza and cards with their family the next night.
People visited us daily in the hospital, never empty handed. The coffee and lunches brought to us was the highlight of our day.
Amazing meals came to our doorstep with more food than our family could eat.
Our high school boys had to do the grocery shopping for basics. Our oldest would drive over some evenings to give my husband a break and sit with his youngest brother. Sometimes our middle schooler or sophomore would take shifts.
Our goal was to never leave Max alone in the hospital and we were able to do that with everyone pitching in. Our friends and neighbors supported us in a way that gave us a chance to do what was most important: spending time with our kid.
Max had a chance to FaceTime with his kindergarten class a few times. He missed his friends and teacher.
I had tried to look ahead and plan for the help that I thought we might need (while doing as much as I could on my own). But when we were in the thick of it, we needed so much more. Especially when we found ourselves staying an additional week in the hospital. Amazingly, our community surrounded us with their love and THEY determined what we needed, and then they did it. With an abundance of generosity. People I didn’t know that well were offering their help, offering words of encouragement, prayers and love.
Our son was discharged from the hospital a few days before Thanksgiving and has been living life back to normal since then. Looking back on that overwhelming time in our lives, I am left with a sense of community, gratitude and love from the people that reached out when we needed it. Whether we deserved it or not, whether we had asked for it or not, our needs were met every day. Because of the help that we were given, we are inspired to look around and see who we can help in our community. I hope my boys will remember this time and know how it felt to have the love and support from others. I hope because they were on the receiving end of such generosity that they will always look to offer a helping hand to someone. Even if they do not ask for it.
Because it is always the right thing to do.