These are the words of a guest mother. Christine and her daughter, Rebecca, travel to Cincinnati from Kansas so that Rebecca receives the medical care she needs. Her words are echoed by hundreds of families we meet each year.
This morning, the fire alarm went off at the Ronald McDonald House. They don’t do fire drills here, so we rousted ourselves out of bed (we got in very late last night) threw on our dirty clothes, grabbed our shoes and evacuated with everyone else in the House. Fortunately, it was a beautiful, clear morning.
As I was standing on the driveway with all the other families I could not help but look around at all the other people standing around. There were several other barefoot moms shoes in hand, hair still ruffled with sleep, a number of dads milling around looking for other dads to chat with, there were babies in strollers, there were bald headed toddlers several hooked up to IV’s, there was a collection of wheelchairs, kids in masks, there were lines and IVs of every shape and type. Kids of every shape, size and color. For a few minutes, the nerd in me wondered how many different diseases were represented in that circle. Surely childhood cancers were well represented, prematurity, fetal surgery, and transplants were also there. I’m sure there were diseases I have never heard of as well.
As we stood, I noticed the parents each one, there, present with their child. I realized that we all, each and every one of us shared a common bond. We were there. Our lives interrupted. Because our kids needed us. We were all displaced away from home and our support systems, for some it will be for days, some weeks, some months, some years and some over and over again because we are parents…we are there for our kids. We will sleep on beds not our own, we will eat meals prepared by a host of volunteers, we will cry on the shoulders of virtual strangers because they are there and they care, we will talk with doctors about things we never, ever dreamed we would know about. We will fight….every day because this is our battleground. Here at a house….a hospital.
This is a battle we share, no matter the difference in our child’s diagnosis. We are all here because we have lives interrupted. We share a common bond….we are all each one of us living every parent’s worst nightmare. Our kids are not here because they are easy. For many of us this is our last chance. Our final hope. This is where our line will be drawn in the sand. This is where we will have our greatest triumph or heart breaking defeat. Our days are not counted in book reports, report cards and field trips, they are counted in blood counts, pills and appointments. We are fighting for survival, for the survival of our children, our families. And here we fight hard, with every weapon, every single weapon in our arsenals….even some we did not know existed… (And maybe our doctors did not know existed either). Here we find hope….in a home.
This morning I realized that we are all here because we made a choice….we chose to not give up….we chose to fight right alongside our children, we chose family over failure…because failure was not an option. We are parents…we do not give up…we sacrifice….everyday….everything…even the familiar, our comfortable worlds…we left jobs, homes, and friends….so that our children, our hopes, our legacies have a chance to see tomorrow. We are fighting to keep that which we hold most dear our family. We are the faces of sacrifice….we are the faces of love….true love.
On the cornerstone of the Ronald McDonald house, it says “this is the house that love built”. I have since the very first time I stayed at a Ronald McDonald house thought it was talking about the people who built the house, the ones who donated money, the ones who held fundraisers, the volunteers who donated time and talent to cook and clean, who make blankets, who answer phones, the people who stay up at night and answer the door, the ones who make it their lives work to run this house, to love on the children and families who enter the door.
This morning I realized that they are not the only people who built this house…the parents each and every parent who has ever walked in these doors built this house. The parents who love so deeply, so fiercely, so unconditionally that they cannot give up, they cannot abandon the fight, they cannot dream of a world without their child. The parents who bravely get up every morning and face the reality of the day not knowing what will come, hoping that this is the day they see a miracle. The parents who hold their children through the worst moments, who cry silent tears when they think no one is watching. This is love….we are its face…each of us.
This is where we find hope, where we renew our faith, where we find the strength to persevere and prevail. Here we are not jealous of others because they all are fighting just like us. Here we can put all our energy it protecting, to being mother lions and protecting the very survival of our children. Here we can trust that we can do the best the very best we can for our kids. Here we find kindness in the hands and hearts of strangers. Here we find what remains, faith, hope and love. Right here, right now….in this house, the house that LOVE built.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boasts, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, and it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes and always perseveres. Love never fails. And now these three remain, faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
-Christine and Rebecca from Kansas