It's hard to believe that almost 1 year ago, I watched you baptize my little girl, Jaycee. You probably have no idea what that moment meant to me and my family.
In my eyes, Jaycee has been part of our faith for a few years. Jaycee has always enjoyed going to church, insisted on using her talker to pray before meals, understood Jesus and his importance in Christmas, and loved to worship God. Christians generally believe that in order to be baptized, they should first confess Jesus as their savior. Having Down syndrome and only speaking a few words, this prerequisite seemed almost impossible for Jaycee.
I often wondered when I watched other children being baptized when Jaycee's day would come. How and when would this happen?
In 2013 as I sat in the intensive care unit, I was afraid Jaycee's moment had passed. Jaycee was on a ventilator and a room full of IV pumps and machines from being in septic shock and pulmonary and cardiac failure. I suddenly had a burning desire to get her baptized. When Jaycee was discharged on October 19, there was so much to do with her recovery that I pushed the baptism on the back burner.
Finally, I got brave and asked my husband about baptizing Jaycee. He was unsure but after some time to reflect, he decided it was a good idea. Still, I did nothing. I was afraid to ask you to do a baptism on a minimally verbal child. I was afraid you would say no. I know you take the act of baptism seriously and I was afraid you would think I was making Jaycee do this. I was afraid of the rejection I would feel for myself, our family's special situation, and Jaycee if you said no. I didn't want to face that rejection.
For months I trudged along with the thought of baptism coming less frequently. Then, we suddenly found ourselves in the intensive care unit with Jaycee again when a simple dental procedure resulted in aspiration pneumonia. After a scary day in the hospital, I told my husband, "If she makes it out of here, she's getting baptized! We can't wait!"
When things settled down, I bravely wrote you an email expressing my desire for Jaycee and trying to make a case for her to get baptized. I waited (impatiently) for a response and became nervous when I saw you responded back. You said you were going to pray about it. I admired you for not telling me no right away. As I waited for your final response, I came up with alternative plans some of which involved baptizing her in a hot tub.
With nervousness, I opened your final email in which you agreed to baptize Jaycee if it was our desire. You came up with a plan to baptize her after service so that she could take her time and have her family gathered around her to make her comfortable. You had enough forethought to ask me about her comfort level with water. A date that worked for both of us was set.
I had some time to prepare Jaycee for her baptism. We watched YouTube videos of people getting baptized. I wrote Jaycee a special story about it using words I knew she would understand. Then the week before the special day, I started practice baptizing her in the bathtub without actually taking her head under the water. She understood what she would do, and I was confident she could do it.
On October 19, 2014, Jaycee entered the water with a smile on her face. Her family and close friends surrounded her to witness this happy occasion. You spoke to our family briefly and then to Jaycee trying to use some of the words I used with her. Then the big moment came and Jaycee wasn't scared at all. She left with the same smile on her face. There were tears that day but none of them were from her. It wasn't until later that I realized what happened on October 19th the year before making it even more special.
I wish you could have seen Jaycee watch the video at home later while she smiled and cheered for herself. From that point on, when she referred to her baptism, she signed "swimming." You weren't in the bathroom with us one Sunday when Jaycee pointed to the door of the baptism and signed "I went swimming there." You weren't in the living room the day I was watching one of your sermons online when Jaycee looked at the screen and signed "That guy and me swimming." You haven't been in her room to see the pictures displayed that church gave us of her baptism so she can look at, remember, and tell visitors of her "swim" at church. You weren't there when other parents of children with special needs asked me how Jaycee did the baptism with no fear and wondered if their child could do it. Since you missed these things, I want you to know how much that day meant to us, people who witnessed it, and other families with children with special needs.
When we found ourselves back in the intensive care unit just a few months ago with Jaycee in respiratory failure again, I was comforted by the fact that Jaycee was baptized. For that, I thank you. I thank you for allowing Jaycee to take part in her faith even if she can't do all the steps everyone else does. Thank you for helping our family have that special memory in the church and not in some one's hot tub. We are looking forward to talking to Jaycee about her upcoming baptismal anniversary, and it's all thanks to you!