There are people who come into our lives who inspire us, people who challenge us, people who we meet and just immediately know that our lives will never be the same.
I have several of those people in my life. Mentors. Friends. Role models whom I haven’t met yet, but so hope to someday. Out of all these, however, there are a few who have affected me the most….two little girls, stuck in tiny 3T sized bodies, but with hearts big enough to touch the entire world. They were the unexpected inspirations. The “un-sought-after” teachers. I never dreamt that someone so small could grow me, expand me, challenge me in such drastic ways.
You all know my sister Brooke, and the impact she has made on my life. If you don’t…you can find the intro to her story HERE. But today, I want to introduce you to Lily.
Lily is sweet; Lily is sassy. Lily is as “Empress-y” as they come; loves princesses, Hello Kitty, and her Papa’s “noodle soup”. She loves doing puzzles, does NOT like to get dirty, and heaven forbid she step out the door without her signature bow, crowning her the true princess that she is.
And most of all, Lily is BRAVE. Lily was born with a very broken heart, one just like my Brooke’s. Emily, Lily’s mommy, and I became fast friends, after “meeting” in a yahoo group advocating for Chinese children with congenital heart defects. We soon found out that her Lily and my Brooke had almost identical hearts. Their extremely rare, “one-in-a-million” combination of heart defects, down to the “upside-down-and-backwards” nature of their hearts, was shared. We traveled to China at the same time, where Lily and Brooke first met in person, and the girls became US citizens the same day. Just a few weeks later, Lily and Brooke underwent the same heart surgery, the Fontan, just 4 days apart. Lily’s people were praying for Brooke; Brooke’s people were praying for Lily. Emily and I coined them “Heart Sisters” before they ever met, and now after watching them interact together, compare brave scars, become friends…they truly have become sisters at heart.
Lily has gone through a great deal since coming home. Several more open heart surgeries. Two belly surgeries. Countless weeks and months spent in hospitals. And most recently? Lily received a new heart just a few days ago. A brave new hero heart, which is now beating inside of her, strong and sure.
Lily is BRAVE, friends. Lily is a miracle. Lily and her Mommy, my precious friend Emily, who has in essence become MY heart sister throughout these years, encourage me daily to choose courage. To dare. To risk. To live each day with “overflowing HOPE”.
I’ve had the privilege of having a front row seat to Lily’s miracle, watching in awe as this brave-hearted girl has undergone surgery after surgery, coming out time and time again ready to keep fighting CHD with every single heartbeat. I was able to spend countless nights with Lily and her Mommy in the hospital, fun “sleepovers” with Tangled playing ad nauseam, watching Lily win the hearts of each nurse, every doctor, and all the other patients on the hall.
Lily chooses to live with overwhelming JOY, finding laughter in the midst of pain. She is courageous and always concerned for others, even on her “this is not my best day” kind of days, saying “Merduff, I think we should take walk. I need to check on the other patients, you know!”
Oh Lily Grace. I’m so thankful that our worlds collided. You and your sweet sisters have taught me more than you’ll ever know…more than I will probably ever fully comprehend. Your brave heart has touched thousands, and I know this is just the beginning. I can’t wait to see you up, running and playing as fast as you can with your new hero heart, keeping up with your sisters and soon-to-come little brother with a special heart just like you. I can’t wait to see how you teach him to be brave, to love and embrace his brave “heart beeps”, to live with overflowing HOPE. I’ll never forget sitting up one night into the early morning hours with your Mommy, talking for hours about how we just wanted you and Brooke to live. To truly live, not held back by your heart or people saying “You can’t”. Lily Grace, we shouldn’t have worried. You CAN and you ARE living…embracing each day with more hope than most people see in a lifetime. You are one in a million, Lily girl. I can’t wait to see where you go. And someday? Someday I want to live just. like. YOU.
*Lily’s family is faced with many upcoming medical bills in the weeks and months to coming, following Lily’s transplant. Right now, I want their focus to be completely on Lily and her healing…not worrying about financial issues. If you would like to help contribute to Lily’s medical fund, a YouCaring site has been set up. Please feel free to contribute, and share the link if you would like. Contact me if you have any questions or concerns! Thank you!!