When people find out that I volunteer for On Angels' Wings, I typically get one of two responses:
"I've heard of that organization. They do good things. They helped a friend of mine." But, I hear this one so much more: "I don't know how you do it. It must be so hard. I couldn't do that."
Reiss is two years old. She's beautiful, vibrant, and fun - and you'd never know from looking at her that she has Congenital Heart Disease. A few weeks ago, I went out to the Kaderly farm to photograph Reiss, because she's a country girl through and through. She loves cows, goats, sharks(!) and bouncing through the pasture. I chased that little one all over the place, and you can see from the sparkle in her eyes that she was having fun too.
Reiss will be going in for her second open-heart surgery in August. The doctors are hoping to use MRI along with 3D imaging and printing to create a model of her heart to help them give her the best chance at a positive surgical outcome. Reiss has traveled back and forth to Saint Louis Children's Hospital many, many times. Her parents, Roy and Sara, have dealt with surgeries being delayed, misplaced hospital records, missing work, and countless other stresses. But foremost on their mind is the fear that they could lose their little girl. No parent ever wants to be faced with that. So they fight on.
Reiss is strong, she is brave, and she's being cared for by the best doctors and cardiac surgeons in the country. And she is loved. SO loved.
That leads me back to my response when people say, "I don't know how you do it."
It's not about me - it never was. It's about honoring the love and the hope that these families have for their children - for their future. It's about witnessing them being thankful for every breath that their child takes, and watching them not sweat the small stuff. And even though it's not about me, being a volunteer has taught me more about life, and more about love than anything else I've ever been involved in. It's made me a better mother and a better person. If it were my child, I'd want someone to do this for her - for us. None of us are guaranteed anything. We should all be looking at life the way these families do.
Our On Angels' Wings recipients are the most hopeful, the strongest, the most beautiful people I've ever had the privilege of knowing. How do I do it? How can I not?
To follow along with Reiss' journey and pray for her, you can join her Facebook Group here
You can also read Sara's blog "Close to Heart" on Wordpress
And to find out more about what On Angels' Wings does for local families, go here