Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Kindness Bombs

This is the third December full of mucus. I’ve probably had many more winter months full of snot, but the last three have been particularly distressing.  I don’t like mucus; I have a very strong gag reflex.   This time last year, Sylvie had just returned home from the hospital from what would be a long and tedious struggle with a chronic upper respiratory infection all winter.  This year we’re prepared with two suction machines and an oxygen tank, which we’ve unfortunately been using with great gusto. Sylvie’s papa is a saint; he painstakingly administers Sylvie’s liquids by mouth one 10ml syringe at a time.  She no longer sucks on a bottle, and even though her doctor would prefer Sylvie was using a g-tube, we continue to feed her orally.  She’s had enough energy to smile at us in the morning, and she still enjoys bath time at night with her sister.  I’m not the praying type per se, but I have been going to bed each night, as I listen to Sylvie’s labored breathing, hoping I wake up to see her smiling one more day. 

I haven’t read Anne Lamott’s Help Thanks Wow yet, although I’m following her various speaking engagements around the country to promote her new book.  Yesterday she posted her own favorite passage:

Love falls to earth, rises from the ground, pools around the afflicted.  Love pulls people back to their feet.  Bodies and souls are fed.  Bones and lives heal.  New blades of grass grow from charred soil.  The sun rises. 

It seemed an appropriate passage to meditate on after Sylvie’s pediatrician and case manager came to the house for a home visit early yesterday morning.  It was just like in the olden days, when docs made house calls for the elderly and sick.  We talked about hospice and contemplated Sylvie’s ongoing palliative care needs. Sylvie giggled when she had three stethoscopes placed upon her chest, nestled in her big comfy bed in her own room in our own humble house.  It’s a much better place to be than in a hospital bed connected to IV drips.  Bodies and souls are fed when they are in a place that feels like home.

Last year when Sylvie got home from her first extended hospital stay, a secret Santa arrived at our door.  We never found out who the man was, or for whom he was delivering presents. The delivery happened so fast—and the man disappeared before explaining—it took us a few minutes before we realized we were just blasted with kindness.  That small act of compassion pulled me back on my feet.  Each December for the last 4 years, I’ve hoped for Sylvie’s twin sister that Sylvie will live at least until January.  Just get us through the Christmas with some semblance of peace and goodwill to all.  Just get us through the New Year. Just get to the girls’ next birthday.  And then BAM!  we make it through another year.  And the sun rises. And we continue to be bombed with kindness.  Thanks!

When Kirsten isn’t grading final exams and  papers as a professor of Communication Studies at the State University of New York, she bakes holiday cookies with her 6-year old (soon to be 7) twin girls.


  1. What a wonderful act of kindness from your secret santa. It brings me happiness to know there are such kind spirits in this world. Thank you for sharing your story, I think of you dear sister and wish you much happiness, peace and good health to your beautiful children.

  2. Wow Kirsten! You guys are amazing. The presence that you and Tom bring to your lives and your girls' lives is striking and powerful. Please keep writing your journey. Sending all of you loving kindness and hope and joy. Oona

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