featured image

While navigating her son’s medical needs, Carmen recognizes those among us who typify St. Simon of Cyrene by helping us carry our crosses.

I’ve been reflecting a great deal on how God sends us the people we need at just the right time. As we navigate our son Damien’s needs, which seem to consistently grow or shift, there are so many beautiful souls God has placed on our path to accompany us at the time when they are needed most.

Damien was diagnosed with a strabismus when he was 15 months old. Since that diagnosis over two years ago, we’ve been patching his “good” eye to help strengthen the muscles in his “bad” eye. We attempted glasses, but he was not tolerant of them and they did not help him see any better. The ophthalmologist providing Damien’s care in the beginning was clearly not a pediatric ophthalmologist, and his lack of bedside manner and patience with our son led us to seek a second opinion last summer.

We met with a pediatric ophthalmologist who specializes in strabismus care. We knew a second opinion may not change the plan of care, but we were hopeful a more patient, gentle touch would help put us all at ease. After Damien’s initial appointment, my husband and I left in tears: tears borne from gratitude for the outstanding care shown to our family by the entire team who truly ministered to our little boy that day.




At his last appointment in November, it was discovered that since June he’d developed a secondary condition called nystagmus. His ophthalmologist was fairly concerned at the quick onset, and referred us to a world-renowned children’s hospital a short drive away. We had our initial appointment there earlier this month, and God’s goodness was again manifested in the team who cared for our son.

Damien was put through the paces with a battery of tests. An orthoptist was brought in to perform additional tests, but Damien’s patience was dwindling. I noticed her ID badge was attached to a pin with an image of Grogu from The Mandalorian, (more affectionately known as “Baby Yoda”) and excitedly pointed it out to Damien.

“My shirt!” he exclaimed. He pulled up the bottom of his hooded sweatshirt to reveal a tee shirt that also bore an image of Grogu. I didn’t even know he had worn it, and my husband later told me that Damien had insisted on wearing it that day. Having something in common with his new doctor friend, Damien breezed through the remainder of tests with heroic patience (for a 3-year-old).




The next step for Damien is an MRI to determine if there is an abnormality in the area of his brain responsible for vision development, as well as a thorough eye exam. Both will be done while he is sedated. I find myself in Gethsemane right now, filled with anxiety for what lies ahead. I am uneasy about him being anesthetized. I am fearful of what may be found. I know it must be done to ensure Damien is as healthy as possible, but I don’t want to do this. I don’t want the anxiety, the worry, the fear … I don’t want this cross.

I know it must be done. But I am afraid.

Trying to form any semblance of prayer during this time feels empty and dry. I know what I want to pray for: a healthy little boy, of course. The words, however, just don’t come. “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me. Yet not as I will, but as You will.” (Matthew 26:39) I’m trying to make these words my own and hand it all over to God with the saintly trust. I don’t want to do this, but I will - without hesitation - for the sake of this little boy who has been entrusted to our family.




It is here that God meets us through the love, patience, and tenderness of others. One of my best friends has encouraged me to see these folks as my own St. Simon of Cyrene, stepping forth from the crowd to help us carry the cross. Though some are little more than strangers, they offer what they can for Damien and our family. From the experts in the pediatric ophthalmology department to dear friends and family, they help ease the burden and lighten the weight of the cross we are being asked to bear.


Click to tweet:
Who is that person who has helped you carry your cross? How can you be St. Simon of Cyrene to another? #CatholicMom


While we don’t know what Damien or our family is facing, I humbly ask for your prayers for a greater reliance upon the Lord, a deeper trust in His plan, and the best possible outcome for our little boy.

I also invite you to consider:

Who is that person who has helped you carry your cross?

How can you be St. Simon of Cyrene to another?



Copyright 2023 Carmen Lappe
Images: (from top) Canva; 3 photos copyright 2023 Carmen Lappe; Canva