I went to Eastern Europe in August. I went for some sightseeing and a little vacation time from my hectic work and school schedule.
But really, I went to hold babies that needed to be loved.
I went to a little village named Tutova in Romania for three weeks with a volunteer organization. I went on a team with 19 people, 15 of whom were to work at the recuperating pediatric clinic with me. While I was in Romania I turned 19. I was one of the youngest, and the only member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on the team.
While I was there I learned many lessons about myself, and about my faith and what it means to me. The greatest lesson is one I learned while holding and loving a little girl who couldn’t talk or smile or even make eye contact.
Her name is Maria Cleopatra, and she is a princess. This little angel is hydrocephalic – her head is swollen with water to three times a normal size. She also has little more than a brain stem. Her situation is so bleak that she functions entirely on reflex. She can eat and cry and poop. Tiny muscle spasms make her arms flail, her legs kick, and her eyes roll, but she can’t control any of it.
I couldn’t control how much I loved her. I held this helpless little one in my arms day after day. Nothing changed, but nothing stayed the same. I’d sing to her the Primary songs I’d learned as a child in church. Her spasms would quiet and her eyes stopped roving. When I finished one of the songs, her eyes flipped up, as close to focusing on mine as they’d ever. Her big brown eyes begged me to keep going.
I sang it again: I am a child of God. “His promises are sure; Celestial glory shall be mine If I can but endure.”
Her condition might be treatable, but the economics of seeking a solution means that instead, Maria Cleopatra will be in that clinic until she dies. The authorities expect that will be within months.
The ways of men are not perfect, but the ways of God are. I know Maria Cleopatra will someday run and laugh and sing. Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, she will have a resurrected body, and because of her pure state, she will inherit celestial glory.
I hope to someday wrap my arms around her again. And someday, she’ll be able to hug me back.
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