“Destination Hope” by Kelly Wilson Mize
Kelly Wilson Mize
A variation of this story was published in the book, Living the Serenity Prayer (Adams Media, 2007)
It had been the longest three months of my life, and it had all come down to this. Once again, my husband and I performed the mundane tasks needed to get us to our destination. We filled the tank with gas and gathered the essentials: an attempt at composure, a diaper bag filled with endless baby paraphernalia, and a map. Part of me wanted to pretend that we were taking a fun vacation, an exciting escape to an exotic location. But the reality of the situation would not allow such carefree dreams. My family was headed toward what felt like a sentencing hearing for a crime that had never been committed. I only prayed that God would allow us to escape the horrible death sentence, or at the very least, give us peace in the midst of the nightmare.
My mind raced back in time, and retraced each step that had led us here. Only nine months earlier, our first child, Grant, had been born: a beautiful, healthy, baby boy with chubby cheeks and sparkling blue eyes.
But much to our surprise, at his six-month check-up our pediatrician seemed concerned when she was unable to find his reflexes. She also thought Grant seemed a little “floppy;” the medical term was hypotonic. I will never forget that word. The doctor arranged for us to see a pediatric neurologist, “just to be on the safe side.” The very word neurologist struck fear in my heart. That trip to the children’s clinic would be the first of many medical visits; anxious, draining car trips that would lead us down a road that we did not wish to go.
The most devastating leg of our journey had happened just a few weeks after that initial visit. It was two days before Christmas, in a rare Alabama ice storm. We were sent to our local hospital for tests that would give us important information about Grant’s still unidentified condition. The tests took much longer than expected, and afterwards we were led into a small room. I warily scrutinized the neurologist’s face as she closed the door behind us, sensing in my spirit that something was terribly wrong. The doctor explained that the test had shown nerve damage, and along with Grant’s decreased muscle tone and lack of most reflexes, this meant trouble. She told us through her own tears that our son had a rare neurological disease and would never live past his second birthday. There was no treatment and no cure. She matter-of-factly went on to explain that life support would soon be a major concern, and since the condition was genetic, there would be a 25% chance of any future children having the disease as well. In my desperation I asked, “Have you ever been wrong?”
Her answer hit hard. “In fifteen years, unfortunately not.”
My husband and I looked helplessly at the bundle of joy in my arms, and fell apart.
There was nothing else to be said or done. Somehow we made our way home through the ice that day. It was a treacherous drive, but I was oblivious to my surroundings, hopelessly numb and utterly devastated. Christmas was miserable for our family, knowing very well that it could be Grant’s first and last. I had never prayed so hard in my life. I knew that there was absolutely nothing I could do to help myself or my child, but I also knew the only One who could help. I begged, pleaded, and bargained with God. If you’ll just let me keep my baby, I’ll tell the world what you’ve done. I meant it with every part of my being.
Exhausted from feelings of anger, fear, and doubt, I slowly came to the realization that I could change nothing about the situation but my own attitude. Instead of focusing on my helplessness, God allowed me to begin to focus on His strength. During this time, I relied heavily on Philippians 4, especially verses 6-7:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving present your requests to God, and the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
I was very familiar with the passage, but had never really noticed the “with thanksgiving” part. I started to take the time to thank God for the blessings in my life: Grant, my husband, my home; the list was endless. Still, the fear of losing my only child was overwhelming. She’s never been wrong, she’s never been wrong, kept playing over and over again in my head. But a comforting voice seemed to answer: Yes, but have I ever been wrong? Who are you going to trust? I knew that even in my distress, whatever the outcome, I could trust God.
So after many doctor visits, and much prayer, the road had led us here. Exactly nine months to the day since our son’s birth, we set out to travel to a hospital in a nearby state to confirm with a specialist our own neurologist’s previous diagnosis. Packing the car once again, we attempted to pack our hearts with courage and faith. As I gently buckled Grant into his car seat I remember thinking sadly: How ironic that we should take such care to keep him safe, when at any moment a merciless, cruel disease could take his life. The prayers of countless family and friends gave us the strength we needed to make the trek. I promised myself on that day that I would accept the diagnosis as God’s will for our lives.
Miraculously, it would be the last stop in our painful journey. I could never have dreamed for such an incredible answer to prayer. Not one, but two doctors found Grant’s muscle tone to be normal, no evidence of nerve damage, and all his reflexes! His condition was determined to be that of a normal nine-month-old baby. My husband and I were absolutely dumbfounded, and asked the neurologist, “What should we do now?”
To which he replied simply, “Go home to Alabama!”
So we did… praising God all the way! The trip home was the most joyous passage of my life. The beautiful spring sunshine seemed to mimic the condition of my heart, such a brilliant contrast to that icy December morning months earlier. Our family was wonderfully free of the death sentence, free of the despair that had plagued us throughout the winter. Finally, we had a beautiful, new destination: Hope.
Update: The above events took place almost 18 years ago. Two and a half years after Grant was born, we were also blessed with a beautiful daughter, Claire. By the grace of a merciful God, Grant and Claire are both healthy. Grant has no remaining symptoms, disabilities, or abnormalities from the experience. He is a junior at Westminster Christian Academy where he maintains good grades and plays second base on the baseball team. I continue to share this story in fulfillment of the promise I made to God all those years ago.
About the Author ~ Kelly Wilson Mize considers it a personal, God-given mission to encourage others with words. She is a wife, mother of two teenagers, librarian at Westminster Christian Academy, and freelance writer who has lived in the Huntsville area for over twenty years. Kelly has a master’s degree in elementary education, and over a decade of teaching experience in both private and public schools. She also has a variety of published writing experience including numerous articles and interviews, various curriculum projects, hundreds of devotions for both children and adults, and contributions to six books. Kelly’s credits include LifeWay Christian Resources, Focus on the Family, Adams Media, Group Publishing, and The Huntsville Times. In addition, Kelly recently became an approved editor for the Christian Editor Connection network and is a member of the Christian Pen. Visit Kelly’s author page: Kelly Wilson Mize Amazon and follow her on Twitter @kellywilsonmize.