I woke up in Najaf today.
It’s been months since I’ve been able to launch a Remedy Mission in Iraq.
After being in the states to welcome my little girl into the world, my wife and I made our way back to Iraq in January, just missing the Fallujah mission.
Now, it’s my chance again. And I have the jitters.
Having a baby does all sorts of odd things to your emotions, or at least it did for mine. It created space where I thought I had no more room. Space for those fatherly instincts to kick in; space for a new, maybe deeper kind of love and the ability to tangibly experience emotions in ways that have been entirely foreign to me before.
I knew it was coming. A friend wrote and gave me a heads up and he was spot-on.
And that’s why I have the jitters. As I kick off this Remedy Mission, I know I’m going to see dozens of babies fighting for their lives—babies just like mine. I’m going to see 5 year-olds and 12 year-olds who have waited their entire lives for a chance at a lifesaving heart surgery and honestly, I’d rather not see them. I’d rather look the other way and block it all out so that I don’t have to imagine what their parent’s are going through. I don’t want to see their sons poked and prodded with needles or their daughters have to say goodbye before surgery.
I’ve done it all before but this time things seem more real to me, and I think it’s going to hurt.
But I know I can’t have it both ways.
I can’t block out the pain, the fear, and the uncertainty of heart defects and the risky operations that can fix them and still expect to experience all of the hope, the victories, and the sheer joy that this mission has in store for those that will be saved.
So, I’m showing up and I’m going to embrace it all.
I’ll hold the babies. I’ll play soccer with the 5 and 12-year-olds and I’ll listen to their parents talk about what it’s like to have a child with a heart defect. I’ll do my best to take their minds off the needles and remind them that this isn’t goodbye.
And it may sting more than usual. It may be uncomfortable and I’ll feel way too vulnerable as a dad.
But it’s only by standing alongside them now, in these moments, that we can experience the full measure of joy that comes with a chance for their children to win and for their heart defects to lose.
We’ll see hundreds of children with heart defects these two weeks, and the medical team will be able to save just under twenty of them. That’s why we train and that’s why we’ll come right back and do this all over again. And that’s why I have to embrace it all—because it’s through embracing the ‘otherness’ of pain in someone different from me that I learn—that we learn—to press on and overcome together.
Let’s get to it. Stay tuned…Remedy Mission XVI is underway.