I’ve never met a parent who didn’t want a healthy child when they were expecting. Not one. When I was pregnant with my first—Marcus Solomon Jones—my family was in high anticipation because he was the first grandchild for both his dad’s and my family. Plus, we were all very thankful I made it through pregnancy as I’ve been paraplegic since 1986 and having a baby was no small feat. Yes indeed, it was a double blessing.
My due date was July 11th and Marcus came via c-section. My family’s joy was quickly dashed when he was delivered and couldn’t breathe. Since I was anesthetized, I missed all this, but his dad didn’t. He watched the doctors frantically try to resuscitate our son and a decision was made to send him to Georgetown University Hospital’s NICU. In addition to a cleft lip and palate, we discovered that he had a very, very narrow trachea. At that time, it was about ½ the size of the circumference of a drinking straw. When he was a week old, he had his first surgery, to put in a tracheostomy tube.
That moment, our family’s lives changed in every way. Our days were filled with hospital jargon, having 24-hour nursing care in the home, and appointments for therapy and with specialists. Marcus frequented the ER because any slight irritation to his airway would result in swelling and difficulty breathing in such a small, unforgiving space. By the grace of God, he grew, we grew and he began to develop into a stable, loving and sweet boy. Even though he was in special education and non-verbal, he was our joy. Our miracle boy.
We felt so confident of his strength, and the care of my parents, that his dad and I decided to send him and his sister to Florida for two weeks to visit. There were very few people who provided the relief of care for us, and since they had watched him repeatedly in our home while we both traveled, we felt that everyone was ready.
The trip went well until the night before we were all to meet in Atlanta for the 4th of July. While dining with friends I got a call that Marcus couldn’t breathe. I screamed and my friends raced me to the airport. Since it was late, there were no more flights. We rushed home to make preparations to get to Tallahassee, Florida.
Marcus’ Dad, Carlton, was en route to the states from an international business trip. I was at home, with my Pastor and friends, trying to think straight and get my stuff ready to go to Florida early the next morning. I was scared that I’d get a call from the doctor or my Dad indicating that Marcus had died. Thankfully, that call didn’t come.
When I got to Florida the next morning, I was met with a doctor who had an expressionless look on his face. While Marcus was on a ventilator, and appeared to just be sleeping, the reality was now staring me in the face: he was without oxygen for more than 10 minutes. The doctor told me that during the night he began to have seizures and his body was making involuntary movements. The next three days, he said, were critical.
Carlton arrived that afternoon and, upon seeing Marcus, almost collapsed. Our Pastor and family flew in and we camped out in the hospital praying, singing and hoping. Hoping for a miracle.
No miraculous healing came. On July 9th we had to say goodbye to our sweet boy. That day the whole world stopped and we wept until we couldn’t breathe. I was numb. I was flustered and felt like there was a weight on my chest. We made the trek back to Northern Virginia to honor Marcus and say goodbye to him, along with our friends and family. The pain was unbearable.
Even after living with a child who had significant disabilities, there was NOTHING that prepared me for being thrust into a deep pit with no light or clear direction. I felt I had sufficiently punched the adversity card with my paralysis and having a disabled child. How could this be happening? How could I be saying goodbye to my precious son? How would we live or laugh again? How would we rally emotionally to let his sister know she was precious to us and that nothing would happen to her? Honestly, I had no idea. None whatsoever.
It’s been five years since that soul-breaking day. I’ve found that my faith in God and time have been great healers for my broken heart. I’ve laughed again. The sun has come back out again. And yes, I’ve experienced joy.
One of the great joys has been honoring Marcus’ birthday with Random Acts of Kindness (RAKs). Each year, my daughter and I do a number of thought-out random acts, or blessings, to unsuspecting strangers or people we know who aren’t expecting anything. This year we’re doing 13—one for each of Marcus’ birthdays.
We’ve invited friends and family to join us in completing Random Acts of Kindness to honor the life of a sweet, big-eyed, non-verbal boy. MyBrownBaby asked if we’d like to engage its readers to get in on the action and blanket the country with RAKs. So, this is your invitation to be a blessing to someone on July 11th. We’ve done things like pay for someone else’s drive-thru order, put change in a Ziploc bag at the laundromat with a note on a random washing machine, taken flowers to the teacher who taught Marcus to read, and donuts to the respiratory therapists at Georgetown. We hope you’ll join us in spreading little love and light on the 11th.
Here, 35 Random Acts of Kindness Ideas to Honor Marcus
- Pay for the coffee, toll, bus fare or take-out breakfast of the person behind you.
- Deliver a sweet treat to your neighbor.
- Tell a stranger she looks fly and her hair is fierce.
- Let a fellow driver merge into your lane.
- Leave a note of encouragement for the worker at the grocery store checkout.
- Volunteer at a homeless shelter, retirement home or daycare center.
- Give up the remote, sans complaint.
- Make a clothing or shoe donation to a local church that can get it to needy congregants.
- Give out books to kids at the park.
- Send a care package to soldier—or her family.
- Pick up groceries for an older family member or friend.
- Send a thank you note to a person who made a difference in your life.
- Sweep off your neighbor’s front porch.
- Compliment a child with manners—and tell his parents what a good kid he is.
- Give your girlfriend that purse of yours she just loves.
- Let someone have your seat on the bus or subway.
- Send a gift card from Kinkos or a store that sells school supplies to a teacher.
- Double your waitress’s tip.
- Help a tourist who is lost to find her way, and offer some suggestions for places you love in your town.
- Babysit for a single mom so she can have a quiet evening to herself.
- Give referrals for self-employed people who are growing their business through word-of-mouth—babysitters, painters, writers, hair stylists, etc.
- Leave extra time in the parking meter so the person who comes behind you save her quarters.
- Toss pennies and quarters on the sidewalk. People love finding money.
- Donate a few vacation or sick days to a fellow mom who can use them to care for her sick child or parent.
- Invite someone new to your house for dinner.
- Leave a treat or gift card in the mailbox for your mail carrier.
- Let someone go in front of you in line.
- Plant flowers in a neighborhood that could use a little color and joy.
- Tell the manager of the store or restaurant you frequent that the person who served you is awesome.
- Forgive a debt.
- Support your community by shopping at a local business.
- Get a pedicure or take the time for an at-home facial: being kind to yourself is important, too!
- Donate food, blankets and chew toys to an animal shelter.
- Leave a kind comment on a blog post you liked.
- Encourage kindness by telling everyone what you’re doing to celebrate Marcus and encourage them to do the same.
Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.