I recently returned from Halifax, Nova Scotia, visiting my son at university. We had a wonderful time together and I was pleased, and proud, to see him thriving in this new environment away from home. I also stayed with friends that I have not spent time with in many years.
There are a few moments in life where you can feel something shift, that cause you to see things differently. What follows was one of those moments for me.
One couple I stayed with, Tina and Sean, have a five-year old son, Hunter, and three-year old daughter, Kiana. This kid, in her short little life so far, has been through hundreds of medical procedures and surgeries to try to correct a serious intestinal disease she was born with. She recently underwent an ileostomy, a procedure that allows intestinal waste to be collected in an external pouch stuck to the skin. She is deaf in one ear. She also at high risk of brain tumours.
Most of us would feel sorry for little Kiana, and think how unfair all this is. How from the get go she has had the deck stacked against her. Some would say she is strong. Others might say she is brave. And I guess she is all of that. But Kiana knows no other way, and she is definitely not sorry for herself.
She has almost died several times. She has spent most of her life in the hospital, her parents worried sick each time she goes in that she may not come home. I simply cannot imagine the toll this must take, and how they somehow manage to cope. She has been through more adversity in the last three years than most of us will ever see in our lifetimes. Or in several lifetimes.
And yet the light that emanates from her is almost blinding.
I wonder how this is possible. How can a kid so young, who has been through so much pain and hardship, be so joyful? But it’s as though she doesn’t even realize the seriousness of her situation, and how tough she has it, compared to many of us.
Inspired only begins to scratch the surface of how little Kiana and her parents made me feel. And now when I think of them, it changes my perspective on my own life. Something shifted.
They say that there is always a silver lining, a gift hidden beneath the pain, struggle, and suffering. I find this really tough to accept, especially in someone so young. But still it makes me wonder if it is precisely the intensity of her journey that fuels her powerful flame, that makes her shine as brightly as she does?
To me, Kiana’s gift is that she is fully, truly alive. Through her life-threatening illness she has somehow gained the freedom to live.
And through this freedom, she offers her gift to the world.
And her gift to us is light.