Advent Words: Heal and Thank

I sit tonight with two days of advent words on my mind and in my heart: “heal” and “thank.” I was in travel-mode yesterday, in route to visit family. So, I set aside my nightly writing to enjoy the family reunion time. Tonight, sleep has drifted over the countryside, and I am breathing in a quiet moment on a snowy night to reflect and to write. I am glad I waited, as is often the case in Advent. I like the idea of these two words coming together tonight. Healing and reconciliation so naturally transform to gratitude and thanks. In fact, once you have lived them, it’s almost hard to imagine them as separate constructs.

I had these words in my mind tonight as I opened up the fridge to get some water. My parents’ refrigerator is plastered with pictures of my daughter from birth to present day: it’s a grand-parental right to be indulgently proud. There are photos downloaded from cell phones, and printed on ink jet printers; many involve birthday cakes and culinary adventures. One picture caught my eye: I am holding my daughter as an infant, wearing the cloth harness that kept her legs positioned like a tiny frog while her hip was healing. I am looking at her with a mix of wonder and worry…perhaps the most common dual combination of feelings for most of us throughout parenthood.

My daughter came out with a huge set of lungs, a flare for drama, and bright eyes that loved to take in the world around her. She was a healthy, vibrant newborn that suddenly spiraled us into concern. First, a fever of unknown origin required immediate treatment with antibiotics in the NICU. Then, the discovery of a “click” when moving her tiny hip, which was soon confirmed as hip dysplasia…one of her hip joints was much smaller than its socket, and it was rather freely moving in and out of joint. We were sent to an orthopedic surgeon, with whom we would spent a lot of time. His recommendation was to work towards slow healing through her first year of growth by wearing a contraption known as a Pavlik harness, made of cloth and Velcro. For many people, hip dysplasia resulted in significant limping and ambulatory problems later in life that could only be surgically corrected. We had a chance at slow, natural healing with patience and diligence of daily harness use. We took that chance. Once she had been fitted, I put her tiny feet and legs into the harness to bend her hip joints into a stable, optimal position for her joints to grow and form over the course of time without shifting too close to the socket. We did this every day, all day, for eight months. Every few weeks, the harness would be adjusted and new x-rays taken to monitor her progress.

My daughter and I made a lot of outpatient visits to the orthopedic surgeon’s office at Children’s hospital. He had twins only a few months older than she was, and we would compare notes on hours of sleep we managed to get and other new parent woes. This specialist was kind, understanding and deeply invested in insuring and encouraging our diligence for success. In public, people often stared at my baby-in-harness and at first, I felt embarrassed. Then, I realized that a little miracle was in progress, using the technology of bone-growth monitoring and some well-placed fabric to allow non-invasive, natural healing.

We never had any early crawling or rolling over moments to record in a first year journal. Sleeping was always flat on her back (as recommended!). As we began to wean her away from the harness once progress was taking place, she quickly learned to pull herself up, doubling the use of her arms to propel herself until getting her walking-legs in full swing right around her first birthday. By then, she had two perfectly formed hips. No limping, no pain. Healing had taken place slowly…day by day and night by night…as she grew.

I was so thankful to her orthopedist, to the kind hospital staff, to the many volunteers that I came to know from spending lots of time at a Children’s hospital. I learned to be grateful, daily, for healing and health and strength.

Tonight, years later I stood looking at this decade-old picture of me holding my tiny baby in a harness, and I felt wonder. It was the same wonder I felt this week watching her skate with her middle school friends across an ice-rink, practicing cross-overs and spins. Her motion is evidence of healing, and for that I am deeply and persistently thankful.

Healing is happening everywhere…sometimes with braces and supports, sometimes slowly, and occasionally not even noticeable to the eye. It doesn’t always even look like healing. But much more is happening below the surface of our human lives, individually and collectively, under the watchful and healing care of Divine Presence who is our great Physician. It isn’t about an instant cure or a quick-fix. It’s about healing and wholeness, slowly emerging one moment at a time.

Healing is happening. Be patient. Be diligent. Allow it to progress, to transform, to grow. And in all these things, give thanks.

In response to the AdventWord global advent calendar project with the Society for St. John the Evangelist. Today’s words: #Heal #Thank. Follow the worldwide advent calendar at:

About harasprice

Professor of Social Work and Priest in The Episcopal Church, parent, teacher, learner, writer, advocate, and grateful traveller along this journey through life
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