Advent, the season of expectation, is upon us. It is a time to yearn for that which is to come.
A couple of thousand years ago, Mary was waiting to become a mother. The world was waiting for the fulfillment of a promise. God’s promise.
This year more than any before it, I feel a deep resonance with Advent. My yearning for that which is to come, for the fulfillment of a promise, for the gift of motherhood (the deep desire of my heart), and for the grace of unconditional love is nearly overwhelming. But in the best of ways. Like the aroma of mulled cider wafting from the kitchen on a cold winter morning.
In October, my husband and I celebrated 12 years of marriage. For about 11.9 years of our wedded union, I’ve wanted to be a mother. But we were not blessed with biological children. As I headed into my late 30s, I began to believe that ship had sailed.
Two years ago in October, while traveling in Africa, we met a little boy in Malawi named Vasco. He was an AIDS orphan with a heart defect. He was dying a slow death. We tried to get him medical help in Malawi but there was none to be had for his kind of problem—a large ventricular septal defect; i.e. a big hole in his heart. So I did the only thing I knew how to do: I told his story.
I wrote about Vasco’s plight in the newspaper where I’ve been a columnist for the better part of a decade. The column ran on a Friday. By Saturday morning, three hospitals in Chicago offered to treat Vasco for free if we could get him to the states. I’ll spare you the roller-coaster details of the intervening 18 months, but on June 11, surgeons at Advocate Hope Children’s Hospital in Oak Lawn, Illinois, repaired the hole in Vasco’s heart with a Gore-Tex patch, fixed a few other leaks, and restored his broken heart to working order.
On June 11, something else happened. Something wholly unexpected.