By Eric Myers
The final piece to fall into place for me came in a most unexpected way. For parents, it came in the most dreaded way. It came in the form of a little girl named Delaney Woodard. I never met Delaney or her parents. The only common ground between us was that they live in the town where I grew up and that Doug, the emergency room physician that attended to Delaney, is a close friend of mine.
Doug is a great physician and a caring and compassionate man. Beyond that he is an award winning physician and the chief hospitalist at a Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award winning hospital. He and his staff are a competent team that has saved many lives who, in someone else’s care, might not have been saved. But on this August day he found himself confronted with a situation that medically speaking he could not win.
Had my parents not lived in the same town as the Delaney’s I would never have received in the mail what I did about two weeks later. It was Delaney Woodward’s obituary. My mom had cut it out of the paper and had taken the initiative to send it to me. She sent it to me knowing that I was a father of a little girl myself and also that I was a struggling father in search of finding the significance of my new role. She sent it to me as a reminder of something we all know intuitively: someday it will all be over. However, her point was simple…you never know when it may be over so make the most of it.
As I read that obituary of the little girl who could have easily been my own my eyes filled with tears. When I finished reading it I openly wept. I think I wept as hard as I did not only for the loss of little Delaney but for her parents who had their precious little girl taken without warning and without the time to enjoy all of those things we parents dream about for our children. There would be no sports teams for Delaney, no sleepovers, no dates, no graduations, no weddings, and no grandchildren. And, in a way, I think I was also weeping for myself. I wept over the guilt and shame of my selfish, disciplined, focused approach to this time I was in with my family. I was putting them to the side as if they were an add-on to the pursuit of my goals. They deserved better. The Lord had finally gotten my attention to this often missed but amazingly powerful concept – I needed to embrace my time with Caroline because it was a gift.
Lots of parents lose children and every time it is a devastating and life changing event for the parents, the extended families, and the communities in which those children lived. Talk to any of those families and they’ll tell you that nothing is ever the same. Rather, a new normal has to be developed and established in the midst of the pain and through the hurt. They will also tell you that great lessons are learned – lessons of life, of loving, of forgiveness, etc. Life is just different, they see life differently. I had begun to see my life differently as it related to my daughter Caroline and I will be forever thankful to Delaney Woodard and the odd irony that in her dying she taught me one of the secrets to living. What follows is a portion of Delaney’s obituary:
“Delaney’s favorite things were bunnies, butterflies, flowers, kittens, babies, Chinese food, baby Jesus, and most of all her family and friends. She loved to sing, dance, swim, play dress-up, prance around in high heels, ride on her daddy’s shoulders and chase kittens. She loved everything “infinity times infinity.” To put it simply, she just loved. … Her parents feel they weren’t unlucky for what happened, but blessed for the time they had with her.”
This makes you want to hug your kids doesn't it? It did me. It makes you a little more grateful just to be with them doesn't it? It did me. It makes you a little more aware of the preciousness of their lives doesn't it. Yeah, I know, it did me too. It was a life-changer.