Aiden’s Light

 

https://www.aidenslight.org

Have you ever procrastinated on something important?

That’s typically not me, but it was last week.  My topic for this post hit close to home, and I had trouble with the “going there”.

I remember the first time I left Abby for an entire weekend.  After all of the years with children in-and-out of the hospital, I’d been yearning to finally get away with “girl-friends” now that my family appeared medically stable.

As the date of the 2015 Living Word Community Church Women’s Retreat drew near, I hesitated, knowing that I would be leaving my toddler behind, one with half of a functioning heart.   One from whom I’d rarely parted.

One who’d nearly died many times.

I admit to being nervous.  Christian and I had spent countless hours over the course of several years fighting to keep our children alive.  Their birth defects and challenging diagnoses had transfixed us into this perpetual state of crisis, torturing us to no end with the pain of possible outcomes . . . the not-knowing how things would turn out . . . and worse yet, the dark moments when we thought today was likely the last . . . nearly drove us mad.

Thankfully, it all drove me deeper into the arms of God and made me trust Him more.

I decided to go.

I’m glad I went.  I met Joanna Beck on the very first night.  Pretty and quiet with her hands tucked into the pockets of her sweatshirt, she’d offered a “hi” and a simple smile when a mutual friend introduced us.

While I discerned Joanna’s greeting to be sincere, I noticed that her countenance saddened immediately after our introduction.  My instincts screamed that something unrelated to me was amiss, but I didn’t know until later that night the reason why.

Her little boy had drowned less than two months prior.

Beacon of joy and player of drums, Joanna’s precious Aiden had lost his life due to a negligent caregiver.  With one horrible phone call, Joanna and her husband, Chris, found themselves thrust into the midst of a heart-wrenching tragedy, immersed in the darkest moments of their lives.

My worst nightmare of eight years had become their reality.

How moving the moment when I next gazed into the eyes of this mother, this beautiful woman who’d loved and lost, this wife who’d survived utter anguish of soul!

The results of such loss can be devastating.  Shock melts into anger and despair.  Depression soars.  Addictions increase.  Bitterness breeds.  Marriages fail.

But not the Becks.

While they have endured an intense grieving process, and, truth be told, some days still prove difficult, this amazing couple has founded a non-profit organization, Aiden’s Light, Inc., with a mission to counter the negative effects of poverty on children.

Swimming lessons.  Piano lessons.  Scholarships for education majors.  Mentoring and goal-setting, psychological counseling and emotional support, academic tutoring and additional programming.

That’s not all.  Their long-term goal is to build community centers in underserved areas in order to provide further support and opportunities that empower local youth.

Living Word Community Church will sponsor the first fundraiser for Aiden’s Light, Inc. on June 2, 1018.  Please visit Aiden’s Light, Inc. for more information regarding their 501(c)3, upcoming events, and ways you can support this incredible ministry.

O Lord, I pray you would richly bless the efforts of this inspiring couple!  Swing wide the door for them to help children find light in the darkness, to know that they belong and and that they matter in this world.  

May Aiden’s Light shine brightly upon many children, that they may dance into their future, brimming with confidence and full of hope, living testaments to how You give beauty for ashes and trade joy for mourning (Isaiah 61:1-3).

https://www.aidenslight.org

 

 

 

 

My Heart

What do you give a great-grandmother on her 92nd birthday?

I asked Abby that question when she woke on Friday morning.  My husband’s grandmother was turning 92 on Saturday, and Abby told me she wanted to give Great Nani something so that she would know she is VERY special.

“Like what?”

“A puppy!”

“Abby, that’s at the top of your birthday list.”

“No, no Mommy, it could take care of her!”

“What else could you give Great Nani?”

“A dolphin – or a shark!  She could keep it in her bathtub.”

“She could, but it might bump her when she’s taking a shower.  We don’t want her to fall down.”

“Oh, that’s right!  Hmm,” Abby said, index finger tapping on her temple, and then she pointed it straight in the air.  “I know!  My heart!  I want to give her my heart!”  Abby tucked her chin into her left shoulder and cradled her arms in front of her, twirling all around.  “That’s it, Mommy!  I’m going to make her a heart right now!”

She ran to her cubby and grabbed her yellow supply box.  Out came the glue sticks and markers.  For the next twenty minutes, Abby designed an elaborate birthday heart, complete with sunshine, banana, apple, heart, and 3-D flower.

It was beautiful.  The perfect gift for a beautiful woman.

The fact that my four-year-old feels deep affection for her comes as no surprise to me.  Rose Prizzi Perry is an amazing person, the unsung hero of a remarkable family.  Born as the second oldest of four girls into a hardworking  Italian family, Rose quickly learned how to support and encourage those she loved.

She married Army Veteran, Paul Perry, and spent many years raising their three children, Linda, Paul, and Ron.  Nani’s long hours at the shoe factory as well as those spent bending over her well-floured kitchen table making pasta, fashioned her into a patient, diligent soul, not to mention an outstanding cook.

I have gained much from her quiet example, one that never broadcasts but simply lives out her undying devotion to family and friends.  Her relentless quest to please reveals her immense desire to make every person feel valued and appreciated, known and loved.

Christian and I love to spoil Nani.  One of his co-workers told him about a top-notch Italian bakery, one known for its cannoli, which happens one of Nani’s favorite desserts.  We smiled on Friday when Christian’s mother relayed Nani’s message, “Don’t bring anything to the party on Saturday.  But if you bring the cannoli, bring the big ones.  Not the little ones, the big ones.”

Nani’s been there, through the good and the bad.  I can’t count the number of times she told me she was praying for us, tearfully clasping our hands the few times we got to see her in the midst of our hospitalization crises.

I distinctly remember one phone call during which God used her to speak into our lives in a powerful way.  I don’t remember the words but will never forget the way she held nothing back, declaring her love for Christian and I and our critically ill children.  That night, her tenacity and encouragement strengthened me and carried me through an extremely dark and difficult time.

I will never forget it.

How ironic that Abby wanted to give Nani the one thing that she has always freely given to others.  Nani taught her children well, children who taught their children, one who now teaches little Abby.

What goes around comes around.

Thank you, Nani, for investing so much love and life into the hearts around you.  Thank you for your gentle laugh and winsome ways, your giving spirit and open arms.  Thank you for your steadiness and grace during the storms of life.

I love you as my own and cherish the years I’ve been blessed to have you in my life.  My prayer for you is that you will continue to enjoy the fruits of your labor as well as good health all the days God gives you.

Many I pray they be.

Happy Birthday, Sweet Nani!