Standing Ovation

"Dad! I stopped the boat!" Tedi looks around. "Wait, did I just walk here?"

Dixil Rodríguez

Every weekday afternoon the Physical Therapy (PT) Center of Rosewood Street is full. The building is not marked; the facility is state-of-the-art; the staff is knowledgeable and compassionate; the families know and support one another. The real members are the children, ages 4 to 12, working on rigorous exercises to help them speak, walk, and use their hands. Even with the “advantage” of early detection for muscular disorders, the window of opportunity for permanent functionality is small.

Today I am here to sign up for potluck duty! The annual Families Together Day in Rosewood Park is next week! Families gather at the park, picnic potluck offered, and, most important, children feature an original craft they created, highlighting the therapy they work on.

As I open the door I am reminded that this is a place of great hope. Maybe I’ll see Tedi, my 7-year-old friend. One day Tedi presented me with an outline of my first name and all medical treatment prefixes it resembled in spelling and sound. He gently recommended alternatives for change, using my middle name. Result: Chaplain Liz.

“Dad! I stopped the boat!” Tedi looks around. “Wait, did I just walk here?”

I visit with Tedi’s mom, Vicki. She homeschools Tedi, and cares for his daily appointments. James, Tedi’s father, works three jobs to ensure that treatments continue. I learn about Tedi’s project for the park. He has built a small wooden boat and attached a small propeller motor. The goal: to walk a few steps, unassisted, “driving” the boat from shore down Rosewood Park Lake.

Families Together Day arrives. As I organize food on the long picnic table, a commotion interrupts. I look up. Tedi, holding a remote control, points at the little wooden boat moving down the river at a quicker pace than planned. James runs after him. I smile and continue my task. But everyone around me is quiet and still. I look up again. This time I see it: Tedi is chasing the boat without a wheelchair, walker, or crutches. Yet he does not notice this! When the boat stops, he turns around and jumps with joy.

Even from a distance we can hear Tedi: “Dad! I stopped the boat!” He looks around. “Wait, did I just walk here?” James crumbles to his knees, sobbing.

There are moments when the torrent of human emotion encounters the peace of the divine; and for a moment our blessings seem crystal clear, our purpose undeterred, our prayers and hopes heard and continuously replenished. We search for evidence of these moments. Yet are they not always present, waiting for us, a gift from our heavenly Father?

As James reaches for his son, a standing ovation ensues from all the families and bystanders.

Hours later the sun has set and we are heading home. I walk quietly behind James, who holds a tired Tedi, his precious head on his father’s shoulder.

“Everyone should get one,” mumbles Tedi. “Standing ovation. It’s nice. We all work hard. Everyone happy. You think my angel stood up too?”

James tenderly pats his son’s back. “I think your angel, his friends, and God were the first on their feet, buddy. Then all of heaven. Not just today.”

I drive home imagining how beautiful a celestial standing ovation must be for all of us.

Dixil Rodríguez, a university professor and volunteer hospital chaplain, lives in Texas.