This is going to be a completely self-indulgent blog, but since this is mine, I get to do that.
About nineteen years ago, my newborn nephew Michael was diagnosed with biliary atresia. In a giant nutshell, it meant that his liver was self-destructing and he was probably going to die. Doctors spent the next year doing all kinds of things trying to keep him alive long enough--and old enough--to get him a liver transplant.
Within days of his first birthday, he got one, in spite of the fact that the blood source to his liver was small enough that they feared it wouldn't take. When asked what his prognosis would be, doctors basically told his parents to let them know in a few years--infant liver transplants were relatively new at that point.
The next year was, to put it mildly, touch and go. The entire family spent more time on its knees than ever. Michael essentially lived in the hospital as one complication after another arose--often one treatment caused the next complication, which caused the next one, which nearly killed him. His parents were told mulitple times that he was dying and to come say good-bye. They planned his funeral. He hung on.
Somehow this miracle child pulled through, defying every odd. By every logic, he shouldn't be here. Many other children who received transplants at the same time and had better prognoses didn't make it. He did.
As the years have gone by, there's almost been this halo about him. He's this spritual giant. Meanwhile, my brother (Michael's father) is a bit of a kidder and has expressed wonder at how he got Michael as his son. He's been known to see his son's light on under the door past bedtime, throw the door open to surprise him and yell, "WHAT are you doing awake?!"
Michael looks over and says meekly, "Reading my scriptures?"
"Oh," Dad says. He coughs. "Uh, then, um, well, yeah. Turn your light off when you're done then." He closes the door and walks back to his room and decides to crack open his own Book of Mormon before turning in for the night.
When the Brethren in Salt Lake announced that they were raising the bar for missionaries, Michael expressed concern that he wouldn't make the cut. His mother almost laughed. "Look way down there, Michael. See that speck below you? THAT'S the bar. You'll be fine."
Michael's biggest aspiration in life? To be a seminary teacher. He's that kind of person.
Last night the phone rang. It was my brother inviting the family over for an exciting event: Michael had received his mission call. My parents are on a mission of their own right now, but all our siblings and all the cousins were there as Michael sat on a stool and opened the envelope.
Here he was, nineteen years after we thought he might not even be living, ready to be a missionary. He pulled out the letter and began to read. Before he even got to the location, he teared up at the first line that stated he's being called to serve the Lord.
And I cried, too.
I remembered babysitting him as a newborn when he cried out from pain and I couldn't give him Tylenol because it would damage his liver further. I cried with him, trying to comfort him and hoping so badly he would live, knowing he was a special spirit with a special mission.
And now he's going on a full-time mission. He's one amazing young man, all grown up.
It's a little selfish of me, but I was glad to hear that he's not going into the MTC too soon. He'll be here just long enough to help ordain my son a deacon this summer. My little guy really looks up to his oldest cousin, and for good reason. When my son was baptized a few years ago, his one request was that Michael give a talk.
There isn't a better hero I could pick out for Daniel to emulate than his cousin Michael.
California, Fresno Mission, watch out! You're getting one heck of a missionary!
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