Like most parents, I sometimes lay awake at night worrying about my children. Unlike most parents, I worry about how to care for my 10-year-old son with Down syndrome, since he’ll never grow to be a fully independent adult. His mental and physical limitations prevent him.
And many nights, I lay awake thinking of my daughter, Parker. She’d be 13 years old now, and it’s been over 12 years since I’ve seen her. She died just days before her first birthday. An incurable and vicious cancer ate threw her little body. The site of the old Children’s Hospital building, dingy, cramped and uncomfortable, is where we got her death sentence.
With perfect clarity I remember asking Parker, while she was strapped down by wires and punctured by tubes to her head and torso, “Why do you have to die?” She looked at me and with her tiny hand tapped her head where a tumor was growing out of control.
I never really understood what being powerless was until then.
I like to think of myself as a brave guy, more than happy to take on powerful politicians, governments, and Leftists in ballot boxes, courtrooms, and the court of opinion. But when it comes to facing the suffering and death of my sweet little girl, I am still a coward. I haven’t even the strength to visit her at her gravesite. I, I just can’t, even now, all these years later. People give me flowers to decorate her grave. I graciously thank them for remembering her. When they’re gone, I throw away their flowers rather than face that brutal tombstone. That’s how brave I am.
For months after Parker’s death I fought off a maudlin desire to go to her grave to dig and dig until I reached her, just so I could hold her again. In the madness of the time it made all the sense in the world.
I also had deep thoughts of suicide, and not for the reason most think. It wasn’t because I wanted to end my pain, though I certainly did. There was a more important reason – to care for my daughter. I didn’t know if my daughter’s spirit lived on after her death, but if she did live on then she was without her Daddy. This thought destroyed me. My duty was to be beside her, no matter what. And I couldn’t do that from this side of reality.
It might be difficult to understand this, but I wanted to kill myself to be a good parent. And why not, I had no other children tying me to this world.
Then all that changed. In perhaps the most optimistic decision in my life, we tried for another child. A little girl, Piper, came to save my life. She filled me with purpose again.
She deserved a little brother or sister; so in no time at all one was on its way.
Then the horror hit all over again. The ultrasounds showed something was very wrong with our little unborn boy: a sizable hole in his heart, likely completely deaf, and a myriad of ugly prognoses, Down syndrome being the most charitable.
And here’s an odd thing to say: my son Chance was lucky. He only had Down syndrome.
So, back I went, to the most horrific place on earth – Children’s Hospital, the place I could only associate with terror. To save his life at three weeks old, Chance had open-heart surgery. Since then, this little 10-year-old man has had 12 surgeries, all at Children’s. He is the brave one.
I’ve come to see Children’s in a different light over the last decade. The hospital moved from its torture chamber-like location in the old part of Denver to a bright, cheery, and friendly new home in the Anschutz Medical Center in Aurora. And through my son I have experienced what Children’s has always really been: a child’s greatest hope for a good life.
The courageous people at Children’s couldn’t stop Parker’s suffering. No one could. But they cared for her with tenderness, humanity, and dignity. And because of Children’s Hospital her little brother is still alive, saving me from the horror of losing another child.
Children’s Hospital connects the daughter I lost with the son I hope not to lose. I love and hate this place. I need this place.
I’m asking you to invest in this place before someone you love is in the same need.
Folks at Independence, spurred on by our graphic artist Tracy Smith, celebrate Parker’s memory and Chance’s, well, chance for life by raising money in the Courage Classic. Every year “Team Parker” cycles through the Colorado Rockies raising money to give other children the hope for a good life.
Last year we raised $14,000 to help little people at Children’s. Would you please help us raise just one penny more this year? Don’t give because of what I went through. Give so little ones like Parker can be comforted as she was, and little ones like Chance get a shot at life. You can donate through our official Team Parker page here.
Please do it right now.
Thank you for remembering Parker and helping Chance.