The Miracle of Taylor’s Life

Dear Will:

A couple of weeks back I attended a funeral for the son of a very close friend. It promised to be a very sad day.

Taylor had been born with just a single chamber (as opposed to the usual four) in his heart. He had his first surgery the day he was born. Doctors told his parents, Mark and Tammy Hyer, that Taylor’s life would be a short one—maybe a few days, at most a few years.

Defying the odds, Taylor’s heart held on for several years more than that. It was hardly a normal childhood inasmuch as he had very little stamina and thus could not play as hard (or do all of the same things) as other kids his age. He also had multiple surgeries and took a bunch of medication. But he was in a great family who enabled him to do as much as he could and who filled his life with laughter and love.

About a year ago, Taylor’s heart finally gave out. Somehow he had wrung 13 years of life out of that tiny, misshapen organ. And in doing so, he had finally grown big enough for a heart transplant. Now if you know anything about transplants you know that you can stay on a list for months waiting for a suitable donor. Well, Taylor waited only a few hours—and it’s a good thing, for his heart literally shut down as the donated heart was rushed into the hospital. The surgeon kept him alive just long enough to give him a new, four-chamber heart.

For Taylor, it was a true miracle. For the first time in his life he could breathe. Instead of watching the other kids play basketball, Taylor could join the game himself. He could climb mountains, ride his bike, act like a kid. His body began to take shape, and Taylor was finally just a normal teenager.

How we all celebrated that wonderful, life-changing surgery. His family shed many happy tears as they recounted the unlikely sequence of events that led to the transplant. They offered many, many prayers of thanks for the extension and enhancement to Taylor’s fragile life.

Thus I was stunned when I received the phone call telling me that Taylor had died. Barely 14, he had returned from a backpacking trip, had enjoyed a couple of fun but uneventful days with the family. Everything seemed to be going great. Then on Sunday in the middle of the night, he awoke feeling very ill. His parents attended to him and his father gave him a blessing of comfort. As soon as the blessing was over, Taylor’s dad gave him a hug, and in that instant Taylor died in his arms.

As I spoke to Mark and Tammy about this tragedy, their calm perspective astonished me. Thinking that I had come to their side to give them support and comfort, I found them comforting me instead. “We’re just really grateful that God gave him that bonus year of life to find out what it’s like to be a normal kid,” they told me. “What a blessing for him to get the chance to do the things he had been missing out on for so long.” There was no rancor or self-pity, no bitterness or despair. Rather they expressed gratitude to God for the miracle that was Taylor’s life—a life that by all accounts lasted at least 10 years longer than anyone could have reasonably expected.

I anticipated that the day of the funeral would be very sad indeed. Instead, I found my faith renewed and my love expanded. It made me want to hug my kids (of course), but it also made me want to be a better person. And it made me grateful for my faith in God that helps me to see that beyond the transitory sadness of today there is purpose and promise that extends into eternity.


Settling for a Tonka Truck

Dear Will:

Today we celebrated my son Seth’s second birthday. Throwing a party for two-year-olds is a little tricky since they are as likely to become interested in their shoelaces as in the activity of the moment. Recognizing that we would not have a whole lot of attention span to work with, my wife and I designed a lot of activities that could go start-to-finish in a few minutes and which could be abandoned without consequence should our constituents wander off to play under the kitchen table. We also had the good sense to invite just one other two-year-old to the party.

Everything pretty much went as expected. I felt a bit like a sheepdog from time to time, but for the most part the kids got into it.  (One piece of advice: Next time you’re entertaining two-year-olds, skip the piñata.) When it came time to open presents, you can probably guess what happened: After opening the first gift (a giant Tonka truck), Seth was pretty much done. We kept foisting other presents upon him, but we could easily have stopped after the truck and he would have been perfectly happy. There are still a half a dozen other presents remaining to be opened, but to be honest Seth really couldn’t care less.

His indifference is to be expected, I suppose, but I admit to feeling a little disappointed. We got him some really great stuff (a real Radio Flyer tricycle, for example) but he’s willing to settle for much less. Now I realize the guilty parties in this little tableau are the eager-to-spoil parents rather than the content-with-what-he-has toddler, but nevertheless it occurs to me that the whole thing is in a small way emblematic of a common, eternal phenomenon.

I’ve got a pretty good hunch that our Heavenly Father has a lot He would like to give us—in fact, we are probably incapable of conceiving the enormity of it. But His ability to give is constrained by our ability to receive. In the Book of Mormon we read:

For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have.  (2 Nephi 28:30)

I wonder how often I have prevented God from blessing me because I have not taken full advantage of that with which he has previously blessed me. I fear that my indifference has deprived me of greater blessings. And I wonder to what degree my own lack of faith in this life may prevent Him from bestowing upon me the unfathomable blessings of eternity that He has promised “those who love Him.”

I’d hate to settle for the Tonka truck when He is prepared to give me a Radio Flyer—if you know what I mean. It may be a lame analogy, but it seems relevant to me, especially as I consider how easily distracted I become in pursuit of my spiritual goals. I guess in the eternal scheme I’m the two-year-old, and I’m hoping that you’re more grown up than I. Here’s hoping, in any case, that you’re quick to acknowledge the ways in which God has blessed you, and that He may bless you much more in the months to come.