As I sit here writing this, I am watching my baby girl sleep. It's a peaceful sleep with very little movement. Every once in a while a smile forms on her face. She's probably dreaming about riding the pony she requested this Christmas or playing with the Yorkshire Terrier puppy she wants or removing a bell from Blitzen's reindeer harness.

At this moment, I realize how lucky I am. If we could only stay like this forever ...

On July 28, 2001, I wrote my first column. It was about my infant cousin Brandon Harper, who was born on Jan. 26, 1988, with a disease called Cytomegalovirus or CMV. At that time, doctors were convinced he was going to die. It was just a matter of time. His parents, Chris and Sondra, and the rest of the family prepared for the worse.

But, Brandon had other plans that included spending the day at Wild Adventures, visiting various playgrounds, attending family reunions, and loving his mama, daddy and younger siblings. Even though he is blind -- he gradually developed vision in one eye -- supposedly deaf -- although maybe not 100 percent -- unable to sit up or talk and has a tube in his stomach for nourishment and medication purposes, he refused to throw in the towel.

Until now ...

Brandon started bleeding internally this week. It's happened before. The only difference is this time doctors cannot stop it. With his father in Iraq, American Red Cross volunteers were called to immediate action a few days ago. Sondra needed her husband and Brandon needed his father home. Chris arrived back in the states Wednesday night.

I have not received a phone call since Thursday night. I don't think he has died, even though doctors were convinced he would not make it through the end of the week. Maybe Brandon was waiting to see his father's face, to hear his father's voice one last time before giving up his place on earth. Maybe he wants to celebrate one last Christmas and receive one last visit from Santa before he says goodbye. Maybe he's holding on for one last birthday party, his sixth.

It's heartbreaking just thinking about what might be going through this child's mind right now.

What's so amazing is that even though their son was given a death sentence from Day 1 and they planned the funeral almost before they brought him home, the family insists they are blessed. This one little boy has taught all those around him so much about life, about living it to the fullest. He has taught me about focusing on the present, on what I have and not on what I am missing.

Even though he never got to run and play with other children, go to school, bake cookies, take a bubble bath, fish with his dad, shop with his mom, or fight with his siblings, I think he will leave this world with the same smile he was wearing when he entered it. He'll also leave this world a better place than he found it.

So Santa, if you're reading this, please pay special attention to this family this holiday season. Bring some extra magic with you when you go down their chimney and spread it around liberally. I think they could probably use it right now. If you're running low, you can have some of mine.

I recommend the rest of you call your children into the room right now, give them a hug and a kiss, and tell them you love them. You may never get the opportunity again.



To contact reporter Jessica Pope, call 244-3400 ext. 255 or e-mail jessica.pope@gaflnews.com

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