Let’s start from the very beginning.

A very good place to start.  Sound familiar?  Picture Maria (Julie Andrews) seated on a grassy hill playing her guitar and singing in front of seven mischievous children dressed in bits of drapes.  A scene from one of my most favorite musicals, “The Sound of Music.” Even now I can hear her guitar plucking two notes, each an octave apart as her silky, smooth voice sings, “Let’s start from the very beginning.  A very good place to start.”  Yes, yes.  You know the one.

And that’s where I’ll begin.  The day I was born. 

But before I go any further, I must make it clear that the glimpses into my life that I intend to share weekly will not be in chronological order.  After all I certainly don’t remember what happened to me when I was six months old, a year old, or even three years old.  In fact, I can, at this very moment, recall only one or two memories I’ve had before the age of five.  Therefore, that which I share regularly will be glimpses of my life from different times of my, at this moment, fifty plus years.  But for now, the day I was born.  A very good place to start. Indeed.

2 May, 1968. Did you notice it? The date. I’m not sure why Americans put the month before the day when the entire planet goes through a day before going through a month. But, as much as possible or as the instance should arise, I will always put the day before the month in my posts. Anyway, I digress. I’m not sure how my parents knew of my sex before I was born, but before my birth my name was supposed to have been William Clarence Wash in honour of my father’s father who died when he was the age of 9. His name was William. But a month before I was born, my mother’s father, Clarence, died. So that’s how my name came about: Clarence William Wash. That being said, I was named after both of my grandfathers who died before I was born.

I was born on a Thursday. Several years later, well into my teen years, I would learn that I was born with, as I understood it to be, Highland Membrane Syndrome. It is a breathing disorder in newborns caused by immature lungs. What I learned later is that it was called Infant Respiratory Distress Syndrome or, in my case, NRDS (no, it’s not a cute assumption that I’d grow to become a NERD). NRDS (Neonatal Respiratory Distress Syndrome) is more common in premature infants born six weeks or more before their due dates. I guess that means I was born a preemie.

NRDS is rare. Today, according to the Mayo Clinic, there are fewer than 200,000 cases per year (I assume that number is based on national data). But in 1968, the cases were even more rare. A case of HMD (Hyaline Membrane Disease which was the actual name instead of, as my younger years heard, highland membrane syndrome) was so incredibly rare and untreatable that not even the doctor or doctors of former President John F. Kennedy and his wife, Jackie, could do anything about back in 1963 when their son Patrick Bouvier Kennedy died from it only 2 days after his birth.

When I was born, I was told that the doctors gave my mum and da the worst news expecting parents could ever receive: “Your child has only an hour to live.”

It is now that I should tell you that the Christian religion runs very deep with my family. As I recall, growing up, it seemed deeper than the Grand Canyon. But I’ll save that for another day. I’m not sure how far the Christian religion runs with my da’s side of the family, but for my mum’s side, I know full well that her mum and da were extremely loyal when it came to their relationships with Jesus Christ. Grandpa Clarence was a school music teacher and his wife, my grandmother, Violet, was a stay-at-home wife. I don’t know if it was a sheer case of boredom or passion or vision or what (maybe a combination of all of the above), but there were many, many occasions that Violet boldly broadened her wings and decided to let her voice be heard by way of becoming a Christian evangelist.

Violet had many talents. She played the piano, the organ, the accordion, and even a saxophone. And when she wasn’t preaching and making his demons run (oh yes, though I obviously wasn’t on the scene at that time, that’s a story to that for another day), she was singing songs of praise from within the depths of her heart and soul. Her travels as a Christian evangelist which started in the early 30s (an act of extreme bravery at that time for a woman, beings that, according to the traditional Christian beliefs, women were to be silent) were quite extensive and had her ministering at several church services and for several crusades and revivals that sometimes her travels required hours of driving time throughout the land. Back in the day, funds for such activity were so extremely scarce that that which didn’t cover for gas or lodgings, the attending church would provide even if it meant staying the night at the home of the hosting church pastor or the home of one of his parishioners.

Anyway, the doctor’s spoke of my rare disease to my parents. I’d like to think that Violet was in the room during that revelation, but I don’t know that for certain. What I do know is that I was told my grandmother prayed. The parishioners of her church prayed. My father prayed. And my mum prayed.

What I am about to tell you is that which I was told by my mum herself and that which I will always remember. Upon hearing the news that I had only an hour to live at the most, my mum prayed, “God, let my son live and I will dedicate him to your service.” Honest. That is word for word.

I don’t know if you believe in prayer or in Jesus or in God or in Christianity. I don’t know if you believe in any religion. And that’s fine. Today, I honestly can’t blame you if you don’t. Maybe you think my existence today is based on fate or perhaps science. Maybe the odds were in my favour. Maybe I got the lucky roll of the dice. Maybe countless hours of research within the time span of Patrick’s death and my birth were so successful that such a tragedy wouldn’t be as likely to happen again. As for me, I like to think of it as a miracle.

What I do know is this: I’m alive. Whether God answered prayer or the research of doctors and scientists prevailed, I’m here. I am alive and well.

And this is where my life began.

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