Today people have a tendency to hold their ha
nds up and make pretend quotations marks when they use the phrase “family values” as though they’re embarrassed about it and want to qualify or justify what they’re saying. There’s no need. Family values are obvious – as natural as family itself. We can argue the politics, but for once let’s explain it in the personal. A true story about my daughter.
She falls down the stairs. I hear a scream. One of those screams that you know has nothing to do with a fight with an annoying big brother or frustration with a little sister. Serious. A seriousness only a parent can detect. “Dad, help!” I’m there faster than I thought possible. As she had toppled, my 10-year-old daughter had tried to stop herself and only made the accident worse. Bad bruising, bad grazes, bad pain.
She heals. To an extent. After a week she wants to go to her gymnastics class. “Come on mum and dad, I’m better now.” No, we say, no way. Another week and she’s still pleading. “I really am fine now, it’s okay, really.” We give in. My wife drops her off at the gym at 7.30 in the evening. Within 15 minutes there’s a telephone call. She has fallen, they think it’s serious and an ambulance is on the way.
Panic and fear, fear and panic. The bargaining with God begins. Give the pain to me. I’ll do anything. Please help. Please. He always does, of course. He always does.
She’s gone to the hospital, we are told. In the car. Speed and rush. Run. Into emergency, we find Lucy. “Oh daddy,” she says. And this tiny little thing lifts that old cloak of courage over her head and tells me that it’s going to be fine. But then the cloak slips, just a little, and she begins to cry. “I don’t want to be here daddy, I just don’t want to be here. I wish it would all just stop and go away.”
And so do I. How I wish that a wand could be waved and everything would be better now. One of those moments when the almighty parent realizes that he is not almighty at all. He is in fact more vulnerable than the tiniest of babies. Because he has no wand, and for the first time in her life his child knows it as well. All he has is love. “I love you darling,” I say. She takes a deep, deep breath and lets her head drop back onto her pillow. “I know.”
Turns out the break is bad and surgery will be needed. “What happens when they operate on me, dad?” she asks. The cutting doesn’t worry her. It’s the being put to sleep. “How will I wake up?” I tell her how it’s done and that it will be fine. “Are you sure?” Yes, I’m sure.
I explain that they will gently put a mask over face and ask her to count to ten. She won’t get past three. Next thing, they’ll be waking her up and it will all be done. “What happens if I don’t get to three?” Don’t worry, it won’t matter.
From the very first moment every person in this hospital is outstanding. Kind, skilful, caring and compassionate. This is one of the Roman Catholic hospitals so routinely attached by secular critics as lacking in empathy and political sensitivity. Odd, I didn’t find such a state of affairs. My little girl is treated as, well, treated as my little girl. An individual. A frightened and hurting little girl. A cast within an hour, an x-ray and then MRI within two, a bed in a nice room by the late afternoon and surgery by the end of the evening.
She stays for three days, and the nurses, the doctors, the technicians, all the staff are universally impressive. As for our daughter, she doesn’t really consciously think about what happened. All she knows is that a group of lovely men and women did everything in their power to guarantee that her bad times seemed less bad. They made her better. By the way, that group of people includes not only the folks at the hospital but every Canadian who made this country what it is and keeps it a place of fundamental decency where we care for the needy and the sick. Thank God for that, thank God for you. Oh, and thanks God for keeping your word. Knew you would.
Family values, family values, family values. Thank you God for those as well.
Michael Coren can be booked for speaking events at www.michaelcoren.com.