Until They Find the Other Half of Your Heart

Annie giggled and squished her syringe of heart failure liquid through her teeth. “I used my elbow to push it that time, Aud-ray!” she bragged. Then she chomped and swallowed the powdered half pill to keep her blood thin and easy to circulate.

Audrey is our regular medicine monitor: ensuring that Annie does in fact chew and swallow every tidbit and that not a drop remains to wet the syringe. She broke her somber observation: “Annie, you only have to take that until they find the other half of your heart. Will they find it soon, Momma?”

It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? Where IS that other half of Annie’s heart that she’s been missing for so long? Why didn’t God put it there in the first place?

The downward spiral can get lightning fast when I see Annie’s broken heart breaking other hearts I love.

The truth that I can’t figure out how to tell a 4-year-old big sister is that the doctor says Annie’s heart isn’t getting better.

The truth I keep arguing with God over is that the doctor says Annie’s heart isn’t getting better.

The truth that doesn’t make sense from a fat and happy thriving 2-year-old is that the doctor says Annie’s heart isn’t getting better.

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After Monday morning’s school day, Audrey casually shared, “Did you know some people are discontent?” I tried not to laugh, but how did she know discontent? I pressed for more, requesting a definition of this new word.  “That means that they forgot what God has already done for them and they just want more or something else instead.”

Discontent: when I only want healing through the pictures on the screen in the heart echo room.

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Discontent: when I’ve forgotten that every day with a 2-year-old whose body continues to thrive while her heart continues to fail is miraculous ongoing healing.

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I want to start letting a new word define our life. A life that I can often think is unfair. A life I too often think is unwanted. I life I often wish someone else had instead of us.

Abundance: an extremely plentiful or oversufficient quantity or supply. Isn’t THAT what we’re getting with Annie? More days than promised. More health than hoped for. More love than I ever dared commit to give.

Yes, this is the abundant life. And that is a truth I know how to explain to a half-heart toddler. a hopeful big sister.  a prayerful mother. a watching world.

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Besides, God is the appointer of days. I sure don’t want to waste the abundant days of Annie’s life prematurely grieving her some day death. So until she is whole one day with that other half of her heart found in heaven,  I want to focus on the plenty and be content with what God continues to provide.

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When You Realize Another Year is Gone

339 days ago we waited in a sterile checkup room. Annie innocently slammed empty cabinets and shuffled through doctor’s equipment. Matt and I complained about the wait and intermittently scrolled through newsfeeds.

The announcement Annie’s cardiologist made when he finally entered made us wish we had every single one of those waiting moments back.

Same: the triumphant entry of 2017 doesn’t feel very grand in our house. What it means to me is that we said goodbye to a year we weren’t supposed to get. Days we weren’t promised. Minutes we were advised against. And I’m not too happy about it.

In Annie’s New Year’s Eve interview, she named strawberries as her favorite food. “Joy to the World” is her favorite song. Target is her favorite store. See? I’ve done something right there. Her favorite thing do to do with Dad is “tackle he head.” Her favorite thing to do with Mom is “take a nap.”

Then we listed Annie’s accomplishments. In 2016

-Annie was honored as a survivor for the American Heart Association

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-turned another year older

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-potty trained

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-learned to swim

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-cheered on the Warriors and chewed sour straws

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-got her first car

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-and learned the messy family art of Christmas cookies

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Annie reported that the new thing she is excited to try in 2017 is going to school with Audrey. Going to gymnastics with Audrey. And not fighting each other…with Audrey. She does love her big sister!

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I’m excited about each of those too, as we watch our little girl grow up. So many new beginnings are ahead.So many moments we’ve begged God for so many times.

But as we ready for a year ahead, there’s a truth I can’t quite swallow. Each step down the road toward new beginnings is a walk simultaneously toward death.  It’s a day we had with Annie that we’ll never get back. Statistics show that one day, I’ll be abruptly left aching for more. 

On Thursday, Annie goes to her regularly scheduled January cardiology checkup. That will make a year since her 2016 January checkup. That day her doctor told us he didn’t know how many normal days we had left with her. 

We don’t know what Thursday’s appointment will find. We’re praying that

-her heart looks good

-she’ll be reinstated as a candidate for the 3rd surgery she needs

-we get to walk out of Children’s hospital and home to the normalcy of regular life

-we get another year of unexpected days with her.