For the past several days my heart has been gripped with Natalie Osborn and her story. I have not yet met Natalie, but I know her through her aunt, Tracy. Tracy and I are friends. We met through a MOPS (Mothers of PreSchoolers) group to which we both belong.
Natalie is 22 months old. On July 21st an MRI revealed a tumor on her brain, wrapped around the brain stem. Last Wednesday, July 27th, surgeons successfully removed the tumor. Natalie remains in ICU, where her parents, Brian and Sarah, have kept nearly round the clock vigil since the surgery. Brian has been tweeting updates to over 100 family and friends throughout the long days and nights. People around the country, and maybe around the world, are praying for Natalie's recovery and for her parents, her twin brother, Evan, her grandparents and close family who comprise the support team for Natalie.
Natalie's story touches my deepest fears as well as my deepest pain. My deepest fear is that of something happening to my daughter, Emma. Maybe that is normal. I really don't know. She is my only child - a miracle in many ways. I can't imagine life without her. I know she is a gift from a loving God and I know her life is ultimately in His hands. We're called to raise her to know Him and trust Him for herself. I recall a phrase from a book I read recently, "Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart walking around outside your body." (Elizabeth Stone) That is so true. I can empathize deeply with what Brian and Sarah are experiencing. I cry often as I read Brian's tweets or the online journal entries from them and as I pray for Natalie and for them. I know they would take Natalie's pain on themselves if they could, just as I would do to spare Emma pain. But they can't do that. They must watch and pray and hold her and rock her when they can. And cling to memories and hope for the days that lie ahead.
Natalie's story also touches my deepest pain - the loss of loved ones. Though I am a person of faith and I truly believe in a glorious life after this one on earth, grief has carved deep places within my soul. Two months before I turned four and ten days after he turned two, my brother, Vic, died from pneumonia and complications from a fire at our home. I really don't remember everything that I thought and felt, but life was never the same - not for me, or my parents, or for the siblings to follow, who never knew "little Vic". Two months before Emma was born, my sister's youngest son died, at age 22. It all seemed surreal. I still have no words to help heal my sister's broken heart.
I continue to pray for Natalie and her family several times a day, though I long ago ran out of anything unique or original to pray. I ask God for her complete healing and recovery. How could I ask for anything less? "You have not because you ask not" (James 4:2). The updates help me pray for the specific needs of the moment. I rejoice at the good reports and cry with the not so good ones. I am so glad she has a family that not only loves her, but loves God and truly knows Him. It really all comes down our utter dependance on Him. We are called to pray in faith and we do our best. I find myself vacillating between "without faith it is impossible to please Him..." and "Lord, I believe... help my unbelief." We give however we can to lighten the burden on Sarah and Brian and support them. I believe there is an Army of prayer warriors of all descriptions surrounding Natalie and them, concentric circles from those closest to Natalie to those who only know of her. But ultimately God is the one who holds Natalie and all our lives in His hands. He is the Healer, Abba Father ("Papa Daddy", and El Shaddai (more than enough).
Natalie and her story have helped so many of us regain our perspective about what really matters. I hug my daughter more often and hold her a little longer whenever I can. Brian was right when he wrote in the online journal "Stuff is stuff, money is money, work is work, annoyances are not so annoying...." I thank God for the privilege of prayer. I still don't really understand why a sovereign God chose to unite Himself to us in prayer, but He does and our prayers matter. "The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective" (James 5: 16). So we pray and will continue to pray. If you have not joined us, will you? Natalie needs you and you need Natalie.