6 weeks ago my nephew was born. He wasn’t supposed to be born yet mind you. There were complications during the pregnancy and he came into this world very early. I have no children yet, just a niece back home in Texas. So I’m terrible when it comes to describing children. “Baby”, “toddler”, “kid”, “new born” all might as well be synonyms to me. When anyone asks me how old a child his my response will contain only two factors: whether or not he talks and whether or not he walks. And yet, even with my feeble baby vocabulary I can describe Landon to you, tiny.
Born around 1 pound 11 ounces, they laid Little Landon in a spaceship, lifesaving baby bed. Over the past several weeks he endured a number of complications, most involving his heart. He had to be transported to a larger, more specialized hospital located two hours south of where our family lives. Landon’s momma is a warrior and his father a champion. Rarely have I seen any two people face such tough times with grace and hope and patience and sheer persistence. They love that kid.
Due to the many challenges and those complications Landon faced we found ourselves traveling south to sit with mom and dad and baby, to show love and support, to offer food and hugs every few days. I wont toy with you, or drag you along, Landon passed away on Sunday, October 6th. We all miss him. Perhaps I’ll write about that day at some point, if I am ever able. This entry, however, is about about another day entirely.
I took an unexpected journey.
It was a Friday, September 27. We received a call that Landon was struggling. We need to be there. An unexpected journey began:
- Two hours south
- Drive through the city
- Park in the garage
- Walk a half mile through the hospital
- Ride the elevator down
- They take my picture
- I get my badge
- Ride the elevator up
- Buzz the speaker
- “Can I help you?”
- “I’m here to see baby Lewis.”
- “Come on in.”
- buzz Doors open
- Walk past all the other babies
- Slide the door open
- Wash hands
- Wash hands
- Wash hands
We made that trek more times than I can honestly remember. Typing the words brings each moment back, every image. I could describe the artwork, the floor, the receptionists. I can’t imagine how much warrior momma and champ dad can remember. Probably a lot more than myself.
On this particular day, by the time we arrived, Little Landon was stable and all looked good. After a few hours I made a decision. Not a life changing, destiny curving decision mind you, the simple kind, the best kind. On a Friday afternoon outside of the NICU at UAB Hospital in Birmingham, Alabama I decided to go for a walk.
There’s a great book store downtown in Birmingham. James Reed Used Books, if you evermake it to Birmingham, AL look it up. Upon checking the map (by that of course I mean a map app) I found that the book store sat only 20 blocks away. The sun shined bright, the air was cool, what more could I want. So, for likely the first time of this journey, instead of taking the reverse trip back through the long list of our hospital visit checklist, I rode the elevator down and then walked outside.
There’s something refreshing about walking around the city. Cars, people, stores, just stuff happening all around. I made my way a few blocks down the road when I noticed a a bunch of people in line, live music, the smell of food filled the air.
A festival was taking place on this particular day. Hundreds of people filled a closed off street, cars lined up several blocks down the road to get a taste of the “Greek Food Festival.”
While the food was tempting and the music alluring, I was not in the mood. One doesn’t just forget what brings them to another city so easily. What did grab my full attention was the open doors of the Greek Orthodox Church. All visitors welcome to enter and tour and take in the beautiful sanctuary. That I did. But unlike most people in this place, I prayed. I fell exhausted into a pew and prayed for Landon. Prayed for his mom. Prayed for his dad. Prayed for my wife and her family. Praying, that felt right.
When closing my eyes became too much. I just sat. Sat in silence, well relative silence. Don’t forget there were hundreds of people outside and cameras going off, and tours being given. But I was silent amongst the noise. I found a image in one of the many beautiful stained glass windows. An image that kept my attention and forced me to remember my little nephew and the battle he was facing.
Under the stained glass of Jesus holding a child I prayed for that kid. I prayed for all the good stuff. Healing, hope, mercy, grace, peace, kindness, patience, life, love, etc. When times get tough my prays tend to be dessert only, with a cherry on top.
Finally it was time to go. I crossed my chest not knowing whether I should or not. But it felt right. I stepped back onto the city streets and journeyed down the bricked and cobblestone roads, making my way to a book store. When finally at Reed Books the eclectic nature of the place brought a smile to my face. Opening the door [ding] the greek food that once filled my nostrils found itself replaced with the smell of old paper and careful words. The books line the walls top to bottom. Each section presents a treasure hunt. To find the books in the back one must move a stack of twelve before even looking. Truly a castle built for nerds. I was thrilled.
I dug around and explored for an hour or so. Looking for specific books, I’m a picky person I must confess. I ended up buying a paperback copy of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit. Which of course is the tale of tiny person that changes the fate of all around him. That is Landon’s story after all, an unexpected journey to be sure. Not one that ended the way any of us hoped. But one that changed all of our lives nonetheless.
Lord have mercy.