Don't Forget to Say Thank You by Karen Williams

Before I begin, I offer this warning to everyone who may read this blog. To say the topic is sensitive and emotional is a gross understatement. If you have any sensitivity towards children, babies, or illnesses, this may not be the blog for you to read.

 If you are still with me, I have one request: remember to say thank you. I will explain.

I found myself facing an unbelievable amount of stress this week. I had work to write, work to grade, classes to teach, and a family that needed me. I was overwhelmed, and I couldn’t find a way to make every large activity fit into one small schedule. On Monday morning, however, I received a video in my email. Despite the large to-do list awaiting me, I chose to open the video. Six minutes and many tears later, I remembered to say thank you.

The video was on YouTube entitled “Ninety-nine Balloons.” It told the story of Elliot, a baby whose family was on The Oprah Winfrey Show last week. Elliot’s unlikely birth came after the doctors discovered a series of genetic disabilities while he was still a fetus. Each moment in the video is a letter from Elliot’s father to his son, celebrating his life, sharing his love, telling him the story of how wonderful he is. Each day that passes in the video is a cause for joy, and each month that passes is another miracle. On the ninety-ninth day of his life, Elliot’s dad discusses how he “went to be with Jesus.” At his funeral, Elliot’s family released one balloon for every day of his life. Ninety-nine ballons in all.

This video was an incredible tribute to a wonderful baby whose life ended all too soon for many viewers. His family, however, was the true miracle. They celebrated his life despite the immense difficulties they faced, and they recognized his death not as a tragedy by itself, but as an opportunity for their baby to be in Heaven. Elliot was a miracle baby, but his parents are also miracles in every sense of the word.

After I finished crying over this amazing story, I realized how long it had been since I stopped to just say thank you for everything wonderful in my life starting with my daughter. It had only been three days, but that was three days too many. Elliot’s family taught me a lesson in six minutes that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. When it comes to our children, we can’t forget to celebrate every single day of their lives as the wonderful gift each day represents.

I left campus early that day, and I thanked the powers that be for my daughter. I didn’t finish all of my work, and I thanked the powers that be for the chance to see my daughter laugh, learn to blow kisses, and cry. After she went to sleep, I thanked the powers that be for my husband and dogs as they are my family too. When I was done with all of this, I thanked the powers that be for Elliot, his family, and the lesson they have offered to the world.

*As a side note, I should add that this family also has a website and blog of their own. They have been through a lot since Elliot died, but they continue to have an amazingly bright outlook on life. Approximately two weeks ago, they were given another gift. Elliot’s mother gave birth to his beautiful, healthy sister.

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