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The Light of One: Owen


Continuing our reflection series “The Light of One”, Susan Burke (OFS) writes about the amazing gift of her grandson, Owen.

The person who sent me on a different way will be three years old in January. If he had been born as scheduled, he would be three in May. Owen, my grandson, arrived four months early, weighing one pound, seven ounces.

“Do whatever it takes to save him,” my daughter and son-in-law told the doctors. And so, two weeks later, when Owen suffered a cardiac arrest, the medical team worked and worked until his little heart started beating again. But between that episode and some oxygen-deprived incidents in the NICU, Owen left the hospital four months later with hypoxic brain injury.

From the day of his early birth, I sent out pleas for prayer from my Secular Franciscan fraternity, my faith-sharing group, my faith community, my church, my family, my family’s friends, anyone who might storm heaven on his behalf. And they responded, even people I’d never met or barely knew.

Owen came home with oxygen tanks and an array of tubes and unpronounceable medical paraphernalia. But he also had resources even more important—prayer and unconditional love.

Owen by the Christmas tree

I don’t know what we all expected of this first-born grandchild, but expectations went out the window.

We were forced to look at Owen as he was, not as he might have been, or even might be. The pediatrician, who saw Owen’s MRI before he saw him, expected a baby with practically no capacity to respond. He got a surprise. Owen was present. Owen was real. Owen was determined to wave off the naysayers.

Of course, everyone’s question was, “Do they say what his outcome will be?”

“They” put off answering, three months at a time, and finally gave up pretending they could predict. And this is how I learned another way.

Owen has cerebral palsy and cortical vision impairment, so he is slowly learning how to use his hands and arms and legs and to perceive depth of field.

He is talking more all the time (in Owen English with his sweet Owen voice), and for now he is fed through a G-tube. With all of this, he is supremely happy, because he is loved. He is patient as a saint, because he is loved. He loves to play, to laugh, music. And he is a beautiful child.

My other way, thanks to Owen, is to leave expectations behind and to love the reality before me. It is more than enough.

Coming tomorrow: “How It Starts” by Charlie Gardner!

Susan Burke is a Secular Franciscan, a spiritual director, a part-time hospital chaplain, an editor, and a mother and grandmother of one each, as well as a cat owner of two.

Help shine the light! Make a donation to Franciscan Mission Service this Advent.

Susan Burke is a Secular Franciscan, a per-diem chaplain at a medical center in Virginia, and a spiritual director.