MIND ON THE RUN:
The Little Blue Angel
By Anthony Kovatch, M.D. — Pediatric Alliance — Arcadia
(Miracle on Mount Washington)
(Musical Accompaniment: “One Cold and Blessed Morning” by The Regency Choir)
One cold and blessed winter
In days beyond recall
A Child was born to save us
Born to save us all!
One cold and blessed winter
In ancient Bethlehem
A Child was born to love us
Sing ‘Hallelujah, Amen!’
The only time I saw Baby Cecilia in the office I noticed in her electronic medical record that no middle name had been recorded; I suspected that not much attention had been directed to such matters since nobody has expected the baby to live longer than 48 hours. Forgetting that she had been assigned the middle name Loraine, I presumptuously created my own: The Little Blue Angel.
Having been born with an extremely complicated cardiac abnormality incompatible with life and surgically uncorrectable, Cecilia was indeed blue from cyanosis, a characteristic which, magically, made her more beautiful than the normal pink baby. Her parents — devoutly religious folk with an extremely sanguine attitude toward everything in life — had accepted the baby’s dire fate and merely desired to enjoy the hours they could spend with her, and that she could spend with her two-year-old brother, Giorgio. She would know nothing other than love in her few hours on Earth nestled in her home at the summit of Mount Washington, overlooking the “City of Champions.”
Hours went into days — days went into weeks. The Little Blue Angel thrived, breast fed at an A+ level, gained weight and appeared plump, slept better than most newborns, and made many of us believe that we were witnessing a miracle. “Faith is believing when common sense tells you otherwise,” I argued, having heard that wish in the blockbuster Christmas classic “Miracle on 34th Street.”
(Surrounded by pink, Cecilia radiates serenity and joy on the night of her Christening and Confirmation (her parents chose Therese as her Confirmation name) and First Holy Communion.)
But a pediatrician’s hope for a miracle and the unearthly heroism and courage of two parents and an older brother could not hold off the inevitable. After 38 days of a beautiful serene life cloaked in nothing but love, the Little Blue Angel joined the other Holy Innocents of history — victims of genetic anomalies, famines, neglect, and the like — under the Heavenly Christmas Tree.
This is the Christmas tree of Christ
For children frozen
Died of bad air
Angels and crying mothers
Flying, kissing, and happy children
— From “The Heavenly Christmas Tree” — written by Fyodor Dostoyevsky in 1876.
Dostoyevsky, the great Russian writer and philosopher of the 19th century, expressed this existential life view in this wee little tale as momentously as he did in “Crime and Punishment” and his other mega-novels:
“Pain and suffering are always inevitable for a large intelligence and a deep heart. The really great men and women must, I think, have a great sadness on Earth.”
I think all involved with the Little Blue Angel and her family certainly deepened the scope of their hearts and souls. If the encounter could merely free us for a few holy hours from the chains we forge in life — jealousy due to our insecurities, impatience due to self-inflicted stress, bigotry due to refusal to understand, bitterness due to conflict fostered by self-absorption — then faith and hope can endure. Hours to days, days to weeks, and on…
But there is a little more to the story. American poet Wallace Stevens wrote in “Winter Morning”: Death is the mother of beauty.
This paradox is beyond the comprehension of mortal men, other than perhaps the saints and the poets. But if we believe (against what common sense dictates) that beauty will save the world, then death itself can save the world and all of us drifting around within it. And if we believe in Christmas, and Santa Claus, and heavenly Christmas trees, and miracles, and in the life of the Little Blue Angel as a life-changing or world-changing event, then maybe we can do our own wee part to save the world entire.
Please listen to master tenor Luciano Pavarotti sing the Italian version of “One Cold and Blessed Winter”: “Tu Scendi Dalle Stelle.” This classic has been sung at midnight mass at every Italian church on the planet — including by myself as a young boy (when I knew nothing of suffering or of miracles).