Sometimes the greatest gifts come in the smallest packages. When I first read about Ollie, I knew he was one of those great gifts, so I begged Ollie’s Auntie, Melissa Tagg, to come to LBOC and tell my readers a little something about him.
Given Ollie is one of her favorite topics to talk about, she said yes … with one stipulation—I post it on his birthday.
Happy Birthday, Ollie!!!
Ollie was born in 2010 with multiple heart defects and Down syndrome. He spent the bulk of that first year at Children’s Mercy in Kansas City, enduring a slew of open heart surgeries and other operations.
Now I will admit something here: I’m not a big crier. At least, not in public. If I’m going to go all red-eyed and snotty-nosed, I’d prefer to do it in the privacy of my own home, thank you very much.
But when it comes to Ollie, I’ve been known to tear up at, um, everything. Usually happy things: a surgeon announcing an operation was a success, seeing a video of Ollie sitting up for the first time, just watching him sleep and realizing I’m looking at a miracle in the flesh.
Sometimes harder things, though, too: like the first time I saw my sister and brother-in-law (Amy and Chip) work together to change Ollie’s trach. I honestly couldn’t handle watching Ollie’s silent cries and had to leave the room. (Although, these days he handles trach changes amazingly—as he does everything else, it seems!)
But my most poignant memory of, well, pretty much losing it in tears was just after Ollie’s first birthday. Health-wise, he’d been doing pretty great for a few months. But about a week after his first birthday, he went downhill quickly and was flown back to Children’s Mercy in preparation for another critical heart surgery. This is the one he’d needed since birth and his other surgeries were mainly “band-aids” to give him time to get strong enough for this big one.
The day after he was flown back to K.C., I drove down to spend time with my sister and brother-in-law at the hospital. Because only two people were allowed in the NICU at a time, first I visited Ollie with Amy. So many tubes. So many machines. My heart ached seeing him so sick again. But as we stood over his bed, holding his fingers and whispering encouragement, his eyes fluttered open…and he smiled.
That’s not the part where I lost it, though. :)
Later on, my sister and brother-in-law switched places. So this time I stood over Ollie’s bed with Chip. We’d told Chip about Ollie smiling. And I’m telling you, in those stretched-out minutes, there was nothing I wanted more in the world than for Ollie to smile again…this time at his dad. In fact, I think I turned a little toddler-ish with my mental prayers in those moments. I can still hear myself: “God, with everything Ollie needs right now, this might sound dumb. But pleasepleasepleaseplease let Chip see Ollie smile.”
And Ollie opened his eyes.
And I lost it. (And confession: might be close to losing it again as I type this.)
Praying for a smile. Maybe it’s a silly thing. But I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought of those few minutes since—and about the people around me who need to see a smile. Or feel a touch. Or hear a word of encouragement.
And about Ollie. His grins. The amazing amounts of joy he’s brought to Amy and Chip and our whole family and probably every person who’s ever met him. His infectious happiness in the midst of heart and health challenges.
And I think, man, I just want to be Ollie to the people around me.
I want to be God’s answer to someone else’s prayer for a smile.
For a laugh.
For a reminder of God’s amazing goodness and faithfulness.
Has God shown Himself to you through a little one? Share it with us below.
Melissa Tagg is a former reporter and total Iowa girl. Her debut novel, Made to Last, releases from Bethany House in September 2013. In addition to her homeless ministry day job, she is also the marketing/events coordinator for My Book Therapy, a craft and coaching community for writers. When she's not writing, she can be found hanging out with the coolest family ever, watching old movies and daydreaming about her next book. She's passionate about humor, grace and happy endings. Melissa loves connecting at melissatagg.com and on Facebook and Twitter (@Melissa_Tagg).
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