For Gavin

They say that there are no atheists in foxholes. To wit, in times of extreme fear, one is persuaded to believe in a higher power. To believe in the impossible. To ask for a miracle.

For a parent, the foxhole always contains our babies. As my relationship with Maggie grew, I understood that I would do anything for her. One day I read the question “What would you do for your children?” I very calmly and dispassionately thought, without hesitation, “I would do anything for her.” My organs, my body, every penny I have, my own life. I would happily die if I thought it meant she would live.

Fortunately for Natalie Norton, she does not suffer the same waffling belief that I do. She is as devout as I am questioning. I had the pleasure of meeting Natalie last year for a photo workshop and while we aren’t close, she is someone whom I would have liked to become better friends with during our time in Hawaii. Her work is amazing; she complimented a surfing photo I took last month and I nearly popped with joy.

But she is in the foxhole tonight. Her son Gavin is deeply, gravely ill with RSV complicated by whooping cough, pneumonia, and a blood infection. I follow her on Twitter and have been reading the updates on Gavin for the last week. He is not even three months old, too young to have received the pertussis vaccine that might have spared him the further complications before he was exposed to the disease; he is fighting for his life in the PICU thousands of miles from home.

The Norton family’s faith is amazing to behold, even to an avowed humanist/agnostic like me. And I know that if she or her husband could, they would trade places with Gavin in a microsecond. But since they can’t, they draw peace from their belief that Jesus has done for them what they would do for Gavin. They have asked their social media network for prayers, for an outpouring of faith for their son. So for them, I’ll make a very rare request: pray. To whatever deity you recognize, to your spirit guide or Jesus or Buddha, or just think positive thoughts.

In Natalie’s own words: Gavin needs a miracle to live. I am unwise in the ways of the universe and full of doubt. But this time, I am willing to believe that there is a miracle out there with his name on it. Let’s get him there.

And to the Norton family: from a mother whose heart is breaking reading about another family’s crisis, from a mother who would gladly take her daughter’s place in the isolette if she could, my thoughts are with you.

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