Thursday, March 23, 2006

Sweet Madeline

Published March 23, 2006

My precious little “adopted” Maddie Moo is back in the hospital again. She is going to be two years old this July. Maddie is extra special to me and she happens to have Downs Syndrome. This is only an aside, because I love her because of everything she is to those who love her. She is sticky sweet, absolutely adorable, with rosy cherubic “I want to kiss those cheeks”, wispy strawberry blond hair (which she always wears fashionably pulled back in a hair clip or in pig tails), and she is quite the little fashion queen. She has these little socks that look like Mary Jane shoes because they are colored black and white. I just love being around her. I wish she were mine (really, her mother knows this). She exudes joy all the time, I hardly know Maddie having a bad day. It kills me that she is back in the hospital again. They are going to do a bone marrow test today. I’d gladly take her place. Little girls who are almost two years old should be at home with their 7 sisters and brothers enjoying her new baby sister Ellie, and not worrying about things like sub-clavian IV lines and anesthesia. Mercy, here come those helpless feelings again.

People with Downs Syndrome are at a higher risk of developing certain types of cancers, especially those affecting the blood and bones. I didn’t know this but for the fact that I know Maddie and her Mom was trained as a nurse. I talk to her mom, my friend, Barb on the phone every day since Maddie was put back in the hospital and the roller coaster of tests and waiting for news is almost unbearable. The pediatric wing at Sutter has seen their share of sorrows and joys. My kids have spent their time there and we’ve had friends we’ve visited there. The hard part about being in the hospital when you are two years old is that it’s hard to understand why. Never mind the strangers who lurk in the room with every change of shift, but I’m sure in Maddie’s little mind, she is wondering why her Mom and Dad look so tired and worried and why Sissy is staying the night with her in a strange place, rather than at home where it’s all so familiar and comfortable. When you are so innocent, it’s hard to find security except in those who love you. They haven’t left her alone and are taking shifts. I know how tired they are.

Wild horses couldn’t keep me away from this child, but a nasty flu has the girls and I home sick, so we haven’t had a chance to run down to the hospital to stay with our favorite little Maddie. I have big hopes and dreams for her. I dream of her growing up and while she does, I get to know her better. Each and every time I see her, I will get a big hug and a huge smile. She’ll say my name a thousand times, and every time I’ll say her name a thousand times back. She won’t mind that I call her Maddie Moo and she laughs because when I do that, she thinks it’s so funny. In my dreams I play with her hair while she talks non-stop about what her Mom and Dad are doing. Then she’ll tell me about her brother Will, whom she adores…and the rest of her brothers and sisters…because they love her so much and keep her constantly entertained. What it must be for her to be that singular joy to many people every single day. I know I will never hear her say a harsh word to anyone as long as she lives because she is so kind and her heart is as big as the room she is standing in.

Maddie is one of those children that when she shows up anywhere, crowds will form around her. She is especially popular at church. When her family happens to be in front of us in the pews, and she is resting on someone’s shoulder, I watch her suck her little thumb, with her silver bracelet around her chubby wrist, and I can’t help but smile in her presence because she has the face and the soul of an angel.

Without knowing what she is facing as far as a diagnosis, I am compelled to ask God once again to be merciful for the sake of Maddie Moo. She is so precious to us. I’ve had this dream since she was born, that she’ll be working at Starbucks someday. She’ll be my favorite Barista. She’s a dear little girl that I want to see grow up into the wonderful loving soul God made her to be for all of us. Please say a little prayer for her family. Whatever the road that lies ahead, they are prepared to walk it with her. I want to be there too with everyone’s sweet Madeline.

Tammy Maher is a resident of El Dorado Hills and a bi-weekly columnist for the Mountain Democrat. You can reach her by email at

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

In the throes of Lent

Published February 2006

We are in week two of the season of Lent, which for most Christians means a time of reflection, fasting and examination. I need Lent for two reasons. 1. To get off my high horse and clean up interiorly and exteriorly, and 2. Realize that the good Lord doesn’t want us to get too comfortable here on earth. After all, Adam and Eve had it really good, that is, until the apple incident. I suppose in small ways we are all paying for it in the sufferings we endure in our daily lives. . I really like Easter though, because we know the end of the story. Hope springs eternal…and to have a seasonal reminder of this is probably a good thing. We are creatures of habit and one of these days it’s going to sink in.

I write today to all of you who are going through a rough patch right now. Whether you are grieving the loss of a loved one or suffering some insurmountable loss of health or bad news about a loved one. You know who you are. You are the ones that suffer mostly in silence. You try your hardest at work and at home to put on a happy face. When people ask how you are doing, the only words you can find are “Everything’s just fine…thanks.” But when you get into the shower or collapse into bed at night, you let the tears fall. In secret you are suffering because you have a lot of things on your mind and you know you need to keep going. Maybe life has dealt you some hard blows and bad cards. Perhaps you are suffering the loss of a job or financial woes. I see those of you who are not sleeping at night, maybe because it’s tax season and you are wondering how bad it’s going to be, come April 15. Maybe your business isn’t doing as well as you expected, or that home renovation project is driving you crazy. Some of you are struggling with managing it all…school, work and home. Perhaps you are failing to meet expectations you and others have placed on you. It’s very difficult. Hard times happen and we don’t always understand the reasons why.

Some of you have loved ones who are far away from home. The worry is getting to you. Your teenager might be having emotional or scholastic problems. Maybe your marriage has fallen into a rut. Perhaps you are lonely or have suffered a betrayal in a close friendship. Without becoming absolutely too maudlin in outlining common problems many people suffer in days like these, I offer you a few thoughts, only because you’ve been on my mind.

You are not alone, even when it seems as if you are. This too, shall pass….and no problem is bigger than your own strength to bear it. Don’t give in to despair. Try and persevere. Sometimes, the highest thing we can do to beat problems like these, is to be absolutely dedicated to helping others with a kind word or deed. Maybe you can’t do much right now. Perhaps picking up the phone and calling someone you haven’t spoken to in a long time, mending a fence, delivering a meal to a neighbor, or writing a letter to a loved one would give you a brighter outlook. Finding a kind word, hugging someone who needs one, lending an ear and listening well, make our own problems seem less significant. Negativity breeds contempt and bitterness. Make time for family. Try to relax and slow down.

If you are ill, the very idea of usefulness escapes you. But your work is valuable and has meaning. Perhaps your primary job is that of using your own suffering as a means to sanctify those around you. Perhaps you are teaching patience to others by your own example of suffering. Your virtue is your patience. Pray for those who are caring for you. I know you both are tired.

After Good Friday, there is always Easter Sunday….be patient and unafraid. Sorrow is seasonal, like a rough and cold winter. If you are in the throes of a difficult Lent, Spring is around the corner. You are all in my prayers. Hang in there.

Tammy Maher is a resident of El Dorado Hills and a bi-weekly columnist for the Mountain Democrat. You can reach her by email at