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The author tells how she found the courage to deal with her baby daughter's frightening medical crisis and how it increased her faith in a caring God and in the power of prayer
Written with the high energy and taut focus of an episode of ER and the humor and grace of a master storyteller, this is the riveting true story of a young mother transformed by faith.
Heather Davis and her husband, Lon, are blessed. They have a strong and loving marriage, a terrific four-year-old son, and a gorgeous new baby daughter named Remy. But one day, without warning, something goes terribly wrong. A seizure sends Remy to the emergency room, and from that moment, life as Heather knows it will never be the same--it will be better.
As agonizing days of uncertainty pass, Heather learns a number of powerful lessons. She comes to know the insight, grace, and compassion that strangers can offer; she discovers the depths of strength and courage within herself, her husband, and her son; and she learns what happens within us when we surrender and open ourselves to hope--and the very real and benevolent effects of faith and prayer.
"This beautifully written book reminds us that--God is waiting for us to let Him help and love us."
--Marian Wright Edelman, President, The Children's Defense Fund
"It's an amazing story--one that everyone can be inspired by."
--Dr. Robert A. Schuller, The Hour of Power
"This is the true story of a mother who finds faith during her daughter's darkest hour, but it is so much more."
"A narrative that dares to be a psalm in anguish, candor and faith."
--Pastor Gerald Swanson, California Lutheran University
"Impossible to put down, a detective story for the soul, a searing meditation on a mother's love, and utterly unforgettable."
--James Dodson, author of Final Rounds and Faithful Travelers
"An inspiring tale of faith and love."
--New Orleans-Times Picayune
Heather Choate Davis wrote advertising copy, teleplays and screenplays before turning to prose. She lives with her husband and two children in Mar Vista, California, where she teaches creative writing.
I was baptized in the summer of 1961 at the gilded font of an Episcopal church as grand and well dressed as a movie set. In the early years my grandparents would take my brother and me to Sunday school there while my mom and dad--unbeknownst to me--were cocooning over mimosas at the Bel Air Hotel. I'm not sure whose interests were being served by this arrangement, since my parents ended up with a nice, amicable divorce by the time I was seven, and I walked away without a single lasting impression--not a Bible story or a scripture passage or a heartfelt belief radiating from a devout teacher, nothing. My praise was saved for the subsequent brunch, where I would give thanks for the honeydew and the raspberries, the custard-oozing éclairs, the steaming stainless troughs of bacon and sausage and the perfectly browned triangles of warm French toast.
As I neared adolescence I was enrolled for confirmation classes. I attended the first one, skipped the next eight, and popped back in on the very last day asking to take the entire course load of makeup exams and the final. The instructor walked me down a long corridor to a private room. "Take your time, dear, take your time," he said telegraphically, then closed the door and left me alone with a stack of Bibles and fourteen pages of fill-in-the-passage questions. It was no great stretch from there to here: If religion was meant to be taken seriously, they would have declined to confirm me. They would have stood their ground and said, "We look forward to having you join us for the complete ten-session course next semester."
Instead, I took my place in my new butter-yellow Saks Fifth Avenue dress knowing that I had cheated wholeheartedly and with seeming permission on my confirmation exam. The whole congregation smiled and cheered and people I had never met slipped little envelopes in my hand. This ceremony was to mark my first conscious and informed steps closer to god, but I don't remember any discussion of that. There was, however, a great deal of talk about how The Club had started featuring made-to-order omelettes with the fillings of your choice, a safe and pleasant topic to carry us through the back roads of Beverly Hills and on into the dining hall, which on that day, as on all Sundays, was upholstered with monarchies of hard-boned, well-powdered widows, strapping, tie-clipped men, broochey, sexless wives and the clamor of seersuckered IIs and IIIs.
The maître d' sat us at a small table overlooking the 18th hole. We had hardly unfolded the starched green napkins when my mom, with her free-swinging hair and unmatronly skirt, shook her head and observed, as if for the first time, "I just can't believe this place still doesn't have any black people."
"Oh, for goodness' sake, Mary, what are you talking about? We only hire black people," my grandmother replied, ripping open her blueberry muffin with an ice-hard pat of butter.
With that my dad rose. "Well, if one of them ever comes around," he said, pulling out my chair, "order me a Bloody Mary, would you? A double, hold the celery." He smiled down on me with his game-show-host grin. "C'mon, princess, let's go get a plate."
In honor of my big day, my dad had given me a fourteen karat-gold bracelet engraved with my name. It was the first real jewelry I ever had. As we walked toward the buffet, my wrist swinging back and forth in his tan, manicured hand, the gold caught the light with such taunting brilliance that I could not look away, and I was certain that I, so adored and so sparkly, was the envy of The Club.
I was my father's daughter. I had his dark eyes and his Roman nose, his quick mind, his penchant for word games and his boundless, driving ambition. I had always adored being told I was just like him, until his drinking turned from a curious stash of Clorets in the glove compartment of his Jaguar to an eight-year battle with cirrhosis played out in a variety of hospital beds and drunken theatrics.
He had a romantic's love of New England. It had been his dream for me to go to college there, but, after a year of elaborate planning, he became mysteriously unavailable for our much ballyhooed, father-daughter East Coast college junket just days before. "Your father's not going to be able to take you, sweetie," my mom relayed to me gently. I flashed for a moment on my solid gold confirmation bracelet and how it had turned my wrist green. "Okay, that's okay," I said, as I had said many times before. I could fix it. I went straight to my yellow pad--the tool he had taught me so well to rely on--and began recouping the plan with my mom in his stead.
I graduated from high school three weeks after my seventeenth birthday and starting packing my footlocker the next day. I had chosen Northeastern University in Boston, because of their cooperative work-study program. I had no intention of staying in school the full four years. I had plans, big plans. I had spent my formative years with Bewitched's Darrin Stephens and Mr. Tate and was quite certain that I was going to do what they did although, at the time, I had no idea what that particular job was called. "Advertising," I'd say. "The word part, not the art part."
A month after I moved away, I got a call that my father had fallen naked from the roof of his three-story apartment building in Marina del Rey. It was two o'clock in the afternoon. He told the doctors that the reason he had been standing on the ledge of the rooftop was that god was trying to talk to him and he wanted to hear what he had to say, but I found his explanation highly suspect. He had taken as much pride in his atheism as he had in his alibis.
All told, I flew cross-country five times to say good-bye to my father, to sit by his hospital bedside for weeks at a stretch and wait for him to die, but he would not. He hung on despite all medical wisdom as his liver rotted and his veins ruptured and he coughed up blood made unmanageable by vodka. On my twenty-first birthday, I called my dad from a kitchen in suburban Ohio where I was a reluctant houseguest. My boyfriend, an alcoholic-coke addict eleven years my senior, had just gotten out of rehab and wanted me with him as he leeched emotional support from his seventy five-year-old father, his father's prim young wife and their three gangly kids. My birthday celebration consisted of fish sticks and ambrosia on TV trays in an airless sunroom with five wholesome strangers and a man who later that night would sneak out of our bed to chug a bottle of NyQuil. "Excuse me," I said, slipping into the kitchen; I didn't want to cry in front of them. I wanted to be alone to call my dad and hear him say, "Happy birth
day, princess," but he had no idea who I was.
Later that year, I was lured back home by a large L.A. advertising agency. There, I would meet Lon. He reminded me of the ocean, of the plunge of deep waves, of salt, of strong currents. There was not a shiny, hard-edged thing about him. He had a wordless sensuality that I dismissed at first as heat, but then it washed over me like seafoam, settling low and smooth, a feeling of peace, a calm that nestled in my belly and poured over my chest without fanfare or drama, proclaiming in the softest of voices, I am here now. Our first Christmas together he gave me an airbrushed painting he had done years before. It was of a middle-aged couple in swimsuits at the beach. The sky is black. The man is planted deep in the sand in a mesh-weave beach chair and he is turned away, watching her--not her long back, not her soft hips, but her raptus, which on this particular day has driven her to point a camera straight into the white-hot glare of a solar eclipse.
The first time Lon came with me to the hospital, it was to ask for my hand--a gesture, really, since we'd been planning the wedding for months. My father was particularly lucid that day, telling Lon that I "was the most important thing in the world" and making him promise to take good care of me. Lon said, "I'll water her regularly and make sure she gets plenty of sun." My dad grinned in a way I hadn't seen in years, and died two days later.
The memorial service was so sparsely attended that we decided at the last minute to move into a tiny alcove chapel off the main church; even then, the postage stamp of rowed chairs went unfilled. The rector did what she could to honor the life of a man she'd never met, but her words could not hold my attention. I was drawn to the glint of an old gold font, realizing in that moment that he had stood there once, my father, nattily dressed and gleaming, smug, his daughter wrapped snugly in his arms. My stomach collapsed to the womb. My veins surged so effusively that I could scarcely breathe. I pressed my head against Lon's shoulder and sought to comfort myself with the nihilistic shrug I'd picked up from my drug-addict boyfriend: "Life's a funny old dog."
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