The invitation by our kind neighbor lady to witness a long-awaited first-born child proved too enticing to ignore. A tiny bundle swaddled in a snow-white, kitten-soft blanket lay quiet and still in the new mother’s loving embrace.
“May I touch?”
“Yes, but be very careful.”
Unaccustomed to babies, I approached with caution. A faint powdery scent filled the air, and at first glimpse of awe-inspiring Madelyn, a spell effervesced.
A real, live china doll with smooth, unblemished skin and cheeks that glowed with a hint of delicate rose perfection. Silken blond strands peeked from the blanketed head, deep, sea- blue eyes flashed and closed, and my resistance faded.
A deep breath and one chubby digit glided to the newborn’s pearlescent petal-pink flesh. Contact. Wow!
Several months passed, and hushed adult whisperings fluttered through the halls. “Yes, a difficult birth, and the pediatrician diagnosed * Cerebral Palsy. The poor child won’t ever be able to walk, talk or be like others.”
The ramifications of the condition fell far beyond this youngster’s comprehension, but near-daily visits continued with my new beleaguered friend and a unique bond blossomed between an average kid and one who was not so lucky.
Past the infancy stage, the toddler’s days consisted of long hours trapped in protective headgear, guards, and enclosed playpens to assure safe-keeping.
In the midst of play made up of mutual smiles, one-sided talk, music, and cartoons, this exquisite creature beamed, emitted guttural sounds, and attempted to speak.
Senses enlightened me to an intelligence held captive in an uncooperative body, and her garbled utterances became precious gifts, as I searched for a means to release her from her imprisoning condition.
Several years later, a walker provided freedom from the netted confines, but with a broader realm to explore, the padded and bulky safety helmet grew more critical and became part of the daily routine.
The disabilities never vanished, but harmony and happiness existed, as shared simple human interactions brimmed with positive intent and love.
At 13, puberty neared, and bodily changes considered normal for others created significant distress in an adolescent with such an affliction.
One hospitalization after another, and then —
“I’m sorry, but Madelyn died.”
The idea this person existed no more, brought the word death, the reality of its definition into focus, and the finality enveloped me in a dense fog of melancholy.
One song, “Greenfields”, sung by The Brothers Four, always cast the entrapped angel to depths of gut-wrenching despair, and tears gushed. A prisoner within herself, effective communication impossible, and the reason for this heartbreaking response remained a mystery.
Long after her passing, the haunting refrain echoed down a hallway.
Is this you dear Madelyn? Is this a message?
The following is an interpretation of the believed communique from my dear friend.
Don’t weep, don’t be disheartened, for the world of constraint no longer binds, and barefoot I leap across lush emerald grasses tickling my toes. Two strong arms stretch to the clouds, and my perfect voice sings glory to the heavens.
Though unable to convey meaning, this incredible child taught me humility, kindness, empathy, and compassion. With the holidays, the giving season, surrounding us, fond memories of this miraculous sprite float to mind, the goodness she embodied.
Run, Maddy, run! Like a gazelle, rush through golden glades. Reach for the forested canopy above and rest upon inviting soft fields at will. No more sadness as the sweet tones of, “Greenfields” plays. For this melody beckoned long ago, held a promise, and now contentment and joy are yours as you romp in perfection, free at last.