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  • Maggie Wallem Rowe

Letter From Boston Children's Hospital - The Only Name You Need

A mid-August day in Boston, Massachusetts. Air thick as the Charles River, leaving us slick with perspiration. And fear.

It was 1989, exactly thirty-two years ago.

Our youngest child, Jordan, had a congenital condition that went undiagnosed until he became seriously ill shortly before his third birthday. Our regional hospital on Cape Cod employed every weapon in their arsenal: tests, radiology, antibiotics. Jordan’s new pediatrician – herself the mother of five - paid midnight visits to his bedside, but our little boy grew worse. Infectious disease experts came in.

After days of inpatient care with no answers, Mike had just stepped away for a few hours to attend to urgent needs of the church we’d been newly called to pastor when a nurse appeared at Jordan’s bedside.

“Mrs. Rowe, we are discharging your son immediately. He's stable but you need to take him to Boston. We’ve called ahead to Children’s and they have a room for him. You need to go right now as the specialist is waiting for you.”

There were no mobile phones in those days. I had no way to reach Mike and no car to transport our child 90 minutes into the city even if I had known how to find Boston Children’s Hospital. I knew Mike would return as soon as he could but would that be too late?

In desperation I plunged my head into my hands and tried to pray, but the fear bubbling up choked my words.

And then I felt a soft hand on my back.

I looked up to see an older woman with beautiful brown skin sitting next to me. She had no uniform or scrubs – no badge to identify her.

“Child,” she said, “Whatever it is, you’re not alone. Let’s go to the Father together.”

“You are…?”

“Name doesn’t matter, child. His name is the only one you need right now.”

She prayed conversationally while I squeezed her other hand, hope rising. It was obvious that God was an old friend of hers.

“Your husband will return soon, I just know it.” She winked as she slipped away.

And minutes later Mike was back.

“The family I went to visit said it was more important for me to be here —” he started before I interrupted, explaining the urgency.

A nurse gave us verbal directions to Boston Children’s, and we pulled onto the Mid-Cape highway with hordes of summer tourists. Traffic was barely moving, and we prayed the entire way. We made it with moments to spare.

By the next day we had a diagnosis.

I have forgotten many of the details of the weeks Jordan was hospitalized, but I remember turning to my husband on the late September day when we finally took our child home.

“Mike, I don’t ever, ever want to forget how to get to Children’s. Someday we’ll need to come here again to support someone else.”

When you have been through a traumatic personal experience, where do you find redemption?

In remembering.

You remember the ways you were comforted and cared for – the friends who brought meals and ran errands and pressed wads of green paper into your hands.

You remember medical terms and legal counsel and the caring professionals you can now recommend to others.

You remember the cards and the calls and the notes – the texts and the emails and the visits.

Most of all, you remember how it feels to be in need, and you resolve never to let another suffer alone if you can help it. Help them.

My spiritual mentor, Gail, taught me long ago that only pagans waste their pain. If we are followers of the one true God, we offer our suffering to him to make of it what he wills.

Oswald Chambers once wrote:

If you are going to be used by God, He will take you through a number of experiences that are not meant for you personally at all. They are designed to make you useful in His hands, and to enable you to understand what takes place in the lives of others.”

We pastored in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for another 13 years after that first summer. Despite my fierce resolve never to let another mother or father go to Boston Children’s Hospital without our support, it was never needed. Thanks be to God, not a single child we knew ever needed their services.

Until now.

Thirty-two years have passed, and now we are the grandparents of a child spending the first weeks of her life at Boston Children’s Hospital. And the parents we are coming alongside are our very own children.

The circle of life. Beautiful, brutal, blessed, abundant life.

As you remember what you experienced, those memories will instruct your hands and heart as to another’s need. And who knows? God might just send an angel to come alongside.

Child, whatever you are going through today, you're not alone.

His name is the only one you need.

- Maggie Wallem Rowe, 2021


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