Isabelle

I don’t think I need an MBA to understand why it’s not generally a good idea for a business to publish much of anything containing social, political, or religious viewpoints.

In December of 2011, we were blessed with our little angel, Isabelle. Our family was forever changed. Below, I’ve attached my address to the audience at the celebration of my 14 month old’s life. If one additional person is moved by Isabelle’s story, it’s well worth it. I publish the following thoughts- graciously accepting whatever business consequences may or may not ensue- not as a business owner, but as a father. I’m a father who is getting back on his feet, learning how to lace up and get back in the ring again. I’m a father who is learning how to move forward. I’m a father who will never stop helping his beloved daughter to make as many ripples as she possibly can, in a world she graduated beyond.

  • Thank you all for coming. Thanks to all of the friends and family and everybody who helped us put this special day together. From the pictures and slideshow, to the balloons and food. Thank you all so much. Thanks to all of you for helping us through today, the past couple of months and ya know, life.
  • This wasn’t meant to be a speech or a sermon. Just a broken hearted dad, trying to find meaning to his daughter’s life.
  • Isabelle. Oh sweet Isabelle. We miss you honey.
  • What a gift she has been. When she was born at Wentworth Douglass on Dec. 15th, it took approximately 7 minutes for the doctors and nurses to perform cpr and bring her back. I thank God that they didn’t give up and were able to bring her to us.  Chrissy didn’t even get to hold her for like 2-1/2 days after. We knew we had a tough road ahead, but we didn’t know how tough.
  • It was about 2 weeks later, at Dartmouth, when we learned that she had a hole in her heart and she would need heart surgery. Over the next couple of days, the bigger picture started to come into focus. At first, there were a couple of other genetic syndromes that the doctors suspected. Then they told us. She had Miller Dieker Syndrome. That’s a tough prognosis right there. Whew.
  • During the days after, I had to work on the seacoast. A couple of times a week I would drive up to Dartmouth, after work. I just had to see the baby and the rest of my family. I would spend the night and then make the trek back to the seacoast to be at work for 7:30. Well, it was during one of these long drives that Isabelle taught me another lesson. I remember balling my eyes out, thinking about all the things my little princess would never do, because she had Miller Dieker Syndrome. I remember thinking that she would never climb a mountain peak. This crushed me to pieces. I’m not even a hiker,  but all of a sudden I was drowning in my own tears and could hardly see the road because my little girl was never going to climb a mountain. I guess that’s just what you think about when you’re driving through the mountains and all. But it was more than that, and I knew it. It was the fact that she would never figuratively climb a mountain that was killing me. She would never come home with a report card, beaming about having conquered geometry. She would never enjoy a lovely Saturday morning sitting down in the warm grass and picking daisies in right field, giggling at all the silly people shouting in her direction. This weight crushed me the whole 2 hour drive. But then something happened. I don’t remember how or why, but something changed as I crossed over the 95 bridge into Portsmouth. I came to realize that focusing on “can’t” was going to kill me. I needed to focus on “can.” I can’t change her genetic syndrome, so I had better not focus on it. I can give her all the love I have in me. We can give her the best life and best chance that we possibly could. She can touch people’s lives and have a positive impact on this big family of brothers and sisters that we all are. She can leave this world a little brighter.
  • Chrissy and I had to meet with doctors and nurses and other medical professionals over the next few days to talk about the future for Isabelle. They did what they were obligated to do and explained that we had options for how far we wanted to go for her, if you know what I mean. But by now, Chrissy and I had been blessed with very firm resolve. We explained that our faith in God meant that we believed she was here for a beautiful purpose, that we were hand selected to host her. We also explained that even if we didn’t believe in God, we did believe in balance in the universe. We told this story about the little boy Chrissy and I both know, that wasn’t given much of any chance. They asked the mom if she wanted to terminate, because even if he survived, his life would be only hardships. But that boy’s heroic and courageous parents said no way! Today, you could see this adolescent young man… hurting… people’s… cheeks… everywhere he goes. People just seem to smile so much bigger when he’s around. So while he may be a step behind his peers, this is more than compensated for when he lights up this earth in a way that none of the rest of us in this room  could ever hope to. Chrissy and I would finish our declaration to the team of doctors by stating that we recognized that Isabelle would never accomplish anything according to the typical standards. But we also recognized that if the greatest accomplishment that a human being could possibly hope for was to leave an enduring legacy of love, a legacy where people’s hearts and souls have been touched to the point that they no longer spin on the same axis, that their course has been slightly altered, a legacy of inspiring hope and courage and strength, if this type of legacy was the greatest a human could shoot for, then this little girl was already on her way to accomplishing more in her life than I could ever dream of. So yes, Chrissy and I were going to do all that we possibly could to allow this little girl to blossom and touch as many lives as possible.
  • My friend Paul also tried to teach me something during the early days after bringing Isabelle home. But he tried to teach me with words. You see, the baby slept a lot, so he would sometimes stop over and we’d talk while sampling one of his latest homebrews or something on a wintry Saturday afternoon while holding the baby. It was great. One of these afternoons found us chatting about priorities, of course. He explained that he and his wife had informally adopted a stance to try to never say no to their kids’ requests, unless there was actually a good reason. I understood this to be sage advice, but my life was just tooooo stressful and busy to convert this recognition into an actual change in actions. Well, I tell you right now that what Paul was trying to tell me with words, Isabelle’s passing has cemented into my DNA. Yes Preston, I would love to play Super-Mario with you. And Yes Julia, I’m happy to do arts and crafts. You’ll both just have to teach me what to do.
  • And then it slowly started to happen. The future that the doctors told us about, started to become our reality. We would have to call the ambulance every now and then to bring her to Wentworth Douglas, and then the team from Dartmouth would come and get her. At first, we protected Julia and Preston from seeing the ambulance come and get her. We had friends help take the kids while one of us was dialing 911. But circumstances wouldn’t allow this protection forever. Eventually, we had to place calls to 911, without being able to shield the kids. They watched as we cranked up the oxygen and tried to get some color and life back into her gray little body. We were balling and asking her to please come back to us the whole time. Yes, Julia and Preston’s perspectives were destined to change. They’ve seen a lot. And you know, when I was a kid my mom always told me to say a little prayer every time an ambulance passes with its lights on, because you never know when they may be going to help someone you love. There were many, many times when these heroes came and helped someone we love. Thank you.
  • Her physical strength was something to behold. Sure, her body had the deck stacked against her the whole time, but she was a fighter. Born 6 weeks early at just 4.1 pounds, I remember watching her on her belly in the isolette. This was when I first caught a glimpse of her strength and spirit. I watched as she lifted her head, while laying on her belly, and swung her head to flop over to the other side. I was in awe. I guess we all love the cool side of the pillow. We would bring her to the hospital and they would do all the things and run all the tests that they had to. She was so strong. She would be poked, prodded, needled, the works. Every single time, she was completely content the moment you stopped. She never held on to any of the negative stuff. It was remarkable. The most amazing part, however, was when we would take her home after either a couple days or a couple weeks at Dartmouth. As soon as we would get her home, her blood oxygen saturation numbers would jump another 8 points, for a few days. Normally, her oxygen saturation numbers would be in the low to mid 80’s when she was at her best. But for a few days after coming home, every time, her numbers would be in the low 90’s. They would never reach the 90’s, but she was always so ecstatic to be home again that her entire body would thrive.
  • She taught us to make the most out of everything. This past year, we had many family vacations. It’s been great. Every so often we would pack up the minivan and go spend a couple of days or a week up in the mountains… at Dartmouth Hitchcock. While we would certainly be concerned about the baby, we all made the most out of these vacations, happy just to be together, all the while knowing that this family as it was then, was living on borrowed time. Yes, we did the best we could to enjoy our time in the mountains at Dartmouth Hitchcock.
  • She also taught us about how many incredibly wonderful and loving people there are out there. We live pretty insulated lives, not really getting out into the world too far beyond New Hampshire. But we’ve now seen a little glimpse of the force and magnitude and far reaching and fully encompassing love that God has given us as brothers and sisters. We’ve seen how people take care of each other when the chips are down. We’ve seen it at David’s House, the beautiful and charitable home on the campus of Dartmouth where we were able to stay as a family when Isabelle was up there. Everybody has a tough story up there. Every parent is living a parent’s worst nightmare, with a sick kiddo at Dartmouth. But there is so much strength and love to be found in talking with the other parents at David’s House. Everybody is there to lend an ear, do whatever they can to help you through it. And quite often, people from the community would bring home cooked meals for the guests at David’s House to enjoy. You would even find groups of teenagers and college kids having a great time, coming to spend a Friday evening cooking for all of us at David’s House. You could see that the experience did as much for their souls as it did for those of us on the receiving end. You could just feel it, it was beautiful.
  • We’ve also seen how many incredibly wonderful and loving people are right here at home. Our friends and family, and this community, and the American legion, have literally overwhelmed us with so much support and love. We are truly blessed. It’s true that this particular journey was meant for us, for our family alone to walk and that nobody could walk it for us, but we have also known that there was a large support group walking beside us. To pick us up, anytime we might fall. We’ve also felt blessed to have been chosen to host this little angel. We are so happy and thrilled that God chose us, even if it was only ever meant to be for a short time.
  • Back before Isabelle, Chrissy and I had talked for a couple of years about trying to bring Julia and Preston to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital in Tennessee. But it certainly didn’t seem to be something we were going to be able to do. Lack of time, money, you know. Well, Isabelle had an important job to do here on Earth. Maybe it was to help adjust the perspectives of Julia and Preston, to give them a different lens through which to see the world. I can’t know exactly what was the important impact that she was destined to have.
  •  But I do know that she taught me to just go for it, let go of fears that hold me back. Not everybody will ever have an opportunity to have a dream that they can work towards. Not everybody has the option of letting go of their fear and taking that terrifying leap, and seeing where they land. Not everybody can pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and go back in for some more. Some people will never get out of a crib, or bed, or a wheelchair. Some people will never see the light of day, or hear the magical sound of a child’s laughter. No matter what does “it” for you, go for “it.” Go for “it” with everything you’ve got, hold nothing back. Some people were loaned to us just to remind us of all the golden opportunities we truly have. Please don’t be selfish with your beautiful gifts and talents. They were given to you for a reason.
  • As far as reaching our potential, maybe Isabelle plays a passive role in that lesson as well. You see, if the rest of the world is anything like me, we tend to keep the painful stuff, the heart wrenching stuff from really getting into our head and subsequently our hearts. Maybe we were given conscience for a reason. Maybe we’re supposed to act on this in whatever way our hearts tell us to. I remember hearing a story about a year or so ago about Somalis fleeing their famished country. After decades of civil war and multiple seasons without rain, their crops and livestock were depleted. With no hope left at home, they traveled many, many miles on foot down dirt roads to Kenya and Ethiopia. Along the way, many of the children were not able to continue. Unconscious but alive, their mothers had to do the unthinkable. Mothers had to leave their children on the side of the road, so that they may have a chance of saving the babies, still conscious and strapped to their backs. They would say a prayer and, in their words,  “leave their little ones for their God.” How heartbreaking. So heartbreaking, in fact, that if you’re anything like I was, you try not to absorb it too much.  But maybe we’re supposed to absorb it. Maybe that’s why we have been given conscience. Maybe we were put here to help our brothers and sisters. Maybe we shouldn’t look to the government or the UN or any organization to solve all the world’s problems. Maybe we just need to banish the fear from our hearts. Maybe if we’re not afraid to absorb these stories, maybe if we’re not afraid of our courses that we have so meticulously plotted being changed, maybe if we’re able to accept the notion that our hearts and minds were meant to evolve, constantly changing according to our own individual journeys, then we can truly begin to harness the stores of greatness we each have deep inside. Maybe if we’re able to absorb these tough stories, keep them with us and allow them to change us, allow them to change how we raise our children, we can truly change the world. Maybe that’s the reason for seemingly tragic stories like these.
  • Through this journey, so many of you have told us how strong we are. And we graciously thank you. But you should know now, we don’t thank you because we agree with your analysis. Sorry. We thank you to avoid having to correct you. We’re sparing you from having to hear about how a person just crumbles sometimes, when dealing with this loss. We’re also sparing ourselves from having to form the words, making it an actual real thing, in yet another dimension. It’s almost like the pain is bearable if it’s just in our hearts and minds, but if we have to speak it out loud, well that just tips the scales too far. Yes, you may continue to tell us we’re strong if you feel that way, but I’ll tell ya what, if falling apart were an Olympic sport…Chrissy and I would be battling for gold medals. But it’s pretty amazing how it all works. Only one of us ever crumbles at a time. We don’t plan it, or compensate for the other. I don’t think we could. It just happens that way. It’s like we’re not in the driver’s seat. It’s on cruise control. And it’s a phenomenon that’s not exclusive to us. When we were in the cardiac ICU in Boston, we asked other couples from around the country if they break down together or take turns somehow. They all experienced the same phenomenon, not understanding how it all works, but it happened just the same. Maybe that’s another lesson we can learn from her, that we were put here for each other. We just have to rely on each other.
  • As far as strength goes, Chrissy was blessed with more than her fair share. I’ve always known it. During Isabelle’s last day here with us, Chrissy somehow found the words to help me learn yet another lesson from sweet little Isabelle. See, we had to come to the conclusion that it was Isabelle’s last day on this earth. Our little girl was never going to come home again. In that hospital room that afternoon, as this realization came crashing down on us at what seemed like lightning speed, our world was getting very sad, very dark. I was balling, we all were. But at one point, I was drenching myself with tears because our baby, our cute, pink, loveable, cuddly baby was going to be lifeless soon. She was going to leave us forever, to watch over us from above. Chrissy found something beautiful. She said that she could feel angels filling the room. They were everywhere. She could feel angels all around, preparing to usher this baby to her next beautiful home. But I was angry. I wailed that if the angels were all around, how come I couldn’t feel them? How come they couldn’t help us? How come it has to feel this awful, the most terrible thing in the world? How come this feels like the worst tragedy ever? Chrissy explained to me that it isn’t a tragedy. It’s a love story… It’s a love story.
  • You know, if you really think about it, that’s all she ever gave or received from this world…love. Sure, she needed and received tons of medical help. But of all the gifts God has given us here on earth, all the blessings that the rest of us enjoy, she only ever really experienced love. Maybe that’s how it all is supposed to work. People who are accomplished in so many worldly ways, well maybe they have a hard time leaving a profound mark on this world. Sure, maybe a statue, but how about a profound mark on our hearts. Maybe all the varied accomplishments, personality traits, and charm, all these positive things, just tend to cloud the picture. Maybe it takes a little angel baby named Isabelle, whose life only ever revolved around love to teach us the greatest lesson, in the greatest way.
  • Isabelle. Sweet Isabelle. We miss you little honey. Your mom and dad, Julia and Preston, we miss you so much. We know that you’re in heaven, probably riding the reindeer, cracking the whip and having a great time, but we miss you so much down here, everyday. Our house is empty without you, our hearts are heavy without you. I know we’ll meet again, and illness won’t prevent you from running up to us and hugging and squeezing us. Until then, enjoy bouncing on your great grampy’s lap. Isabelle’s great grampy Harvey Mick passed away just last night. We love you Grampy. Rest in peace. It’s sort of comforting to know they will have each other up there, along with my Nana and Grampy, and Delia’s Nana. We love you little Honey. You truly changed us and we will love you and learn from you forever.