It’s easy to stop and imagine for only a few seconds, but what if what you imagined was reality?
There’s a four-year-old boy in Rapid City who lives the reality of a silent, dark world every day. Just over a year ago, he was a vibrant, healthy little boy who loved preschool. Then, he was struck by meningitis. Doctors told his parents they’d do everything they could, but he wouldn’t live.
To his parents’ great joy, their son Liam survived. Nothing could have prepared them, however, for their new reality.
Liam awoke from a coma asking for his parents. They responded with joyful voices, but Liam kept asking for them. Finally, he said, “Where is everyone, and why won’t you talk to me?”
Soon, his doctors and parents realized the strong medications that saved his life robbed Liam of his ability to see and hear. Though he could speak, he soon gave up. He retreated into the quiet dark while his family and a host of professionals scrambled to help him.
Liam is surrounded by love. Of course, where there is love there is also hope. Today, doctors believe he can see shadows, and Liam has learned more than 200 signs in an effort to restore his ability to communicate with the outside world.
My sister-in-law knows Liam and his family well. She says his one true joy is food. With two senses stolen, his senses of touch and taste have been heightened. He savors food in a way most of us can’t understand.
Can you even begin to imagine what must go through that little boy’s mind? Can you comprehend the amount of strength and faith it must take for his family to get through each day? Personally, I can’t think about Liam and his family without tearing up.
Selfishly, the hardest part about Liam’s story for me comes when I try to imagine him as one of my children.
Would the last thing they heard from my mouth be something I want them to remember? Would it have been kind? Would their last image of me be one where I looked at them with love, or would they only remember a mom annoyed by their latest childhood antics?
Even as I write this, I’ve been interrupted by our six-year-old at least three times. I’m ashamed to admit this, but before Christmas, I probably would have snapped at him, said something short like, “Mommy has a deadline. You need to go out.” Then, I would have dismissed him without another thought until I was done writing. I would have gone to him afterwards and asked what he needed, but he would have responded with a quiet “nothing.”
Thankfully, my sister-in-law reminded me of Liam’s during our Christmas celebration. A week later, I turned 35 and had an event that caused my life to flash in front of my eyes. I didn’t like most of what I saw and vowed to change.
I’m not perfect, and there will absolutely be times when my children have to wait. But, on this day, I took a breath and gave our son the 30 seconds he needed. Thank God I did!
In those brief moments on this one day, I learned so much about the boy he has become. I saw a side of him I hadn’t taken time to acknowledge, and as my heart softened, I gained a new appreciation for our particular, determined and solitary son.
Parent or not, it’s easy to get swept up in the activity of any given day. As technology advances, thoughtful, caring communication with others seems to be decreasing. Too many of us treat daily interactions with other human beings as throw-away moments; I’m certainly guilty of that, and from what I’ve witnessed around me at times, I’m not alone.
I’ve always been proud to be part of the livestock industry, especially in rural communities. As a whole, I feel like the industry is made up of good people who care about others. Nothing is perfect, of course, but some of the latest testaments to folks in our industry have come in the wake of natural disaster.
People across the nation have opened their hearts to support those affected by the October blizzard in western South Dakota. Millions of dollars have poured in with the hope of bringing some relief to those in need.
Here’s what humbles me … some of those families in greatest need, especially some young families just getting started, have turned away financial help insisting it go to a neighbor who got hit harder. At a time when there’s no shame in taking help and paying it forward as they rebuild, these kind souls are putting others before themselves.
I don’t know if I could be that selfless in the wake tragedy.
As we move forward in a New Year, my hope for all of us is to keep little Liam’s story close to our hearts. Whether we’re putting kids to bed or waiting for an old man to walk down the stall aisles, I pray we all take a breath and think: “What if what I say and do is the last thing this person hears and sees?”
The origin of this quote is up for debate, but one of my favorite sayings is, “The true measure of a man is how he treats those who can do nothing for him.”
What’s your measure going to be in 2014?