My cousin has a child who had strokes in utero, at about 12 weeks gestation. His name is Jude, and he’s brought so much light to our family. He has a thick mat of spiky black hair, gorgeous olive skin and a quick smile, and if he is tallest four year old this family has ever produced! 

Jude can’t speak many words, but he can communicate. My cousin and her family have become masters at reading his cues and  instinctively meeting his needs and desires. His condition requires round the clock, intensive medical care, and my cousin and her husband have received the equivalent of a medical degree over the last five years caring for him and learning about his special needs. I am in awe of the two of them, and of Jude’s big sister. Their family knitted themselves more tightly together in a situation that normally tears people apart.

For me, having Jude in my life means I’ve learned to appreciate the little things, to cheer small victories and have hope and faith when things get dark and scary. It means being grateful for all that I have, and realizing that there are so many people living in this world, carrying burdens heavier than I could image, and that my problems are so small in comparison. It meant accepting a child as my own, even when everyone told me his life would be full of challenges, and meeting him where he was, ready and willing to walk a potentially difficult road alongside him. It means keeping things in perspective, a task at which I often fail.

Jude shows my children to be grateful for the sibling relationships they have, and to help others by giving of their time and of themselves. Jude’s sister, Emily, started a charity, Emily’s Smile Boxes, that provides activity boxes to children and their siblings who are enduring trauma or difficulty. (Shameless plug for donations here!) Emily has been a model to not only my children, but children around the nation and locally. My children adore participating in Smile Box activities, as do many others. 

I’m writing all this because Jude is heavy on my mind this morning, on my heart. He’s in the hospital, with pneumonia, which is common in children with his type of health conditions. But it’s still scary. Jude is a constant, shining light to us, and to so many others. He is a small, persistent star in the constellation of our family, and his fire is felt by all. I want him to be well, to come home to his darling bedroom and his kitty. So this is my prayer.

This morning, I pray for Jude to be well, and for comfort and strength for his family, the strongest people I have the privilege to know. I do not have to pray that Jude knows how much he is cared for, because there is no doubt in my mind that Jude feels the depth and continuity of the river of love that flows around him. 

So, this Sunday morning, I say “Get well, Judey”. Your Auntie loves you. So very, very much.