There was a moment while sitting in the Del Ricco’s apartment earlier this week in Baltimore as I was holding the microphone up to George’s mouth as he held Baby Ava that has changed me forever.
I was honored to be one of the few journalists that was invited into the DelRicco’s fragile and healing world in suburban Baltimore, and I was there to help, as I wanted nothing more than to use the medium and reach of my public radio show to allow the family to tell their story.
The magnitude of what this family is going through is only seemingly superseded by the amount of love they have for one another, and their appreciation for the amount of support complete strangers in this community have showered them with.
Ava was nestled in George’s big strong arms as little girls often do, and as George answered one of my questions with a courage and candid honesty I highly doubt I could ever have, Ava turned her head and stared at me. Perhaps she had heard a new voice and wanted to investigate or maybe she was responding to when I gently tickled her little toe.
The doctors are unsure what Ava can see at this point, due to the injuries to her brain stem, but her parents told me that sometimes she will look at you like she’s peering through you, and into your soul.
I felt that very thing, as she looked in my direction, and that moment stuck with me, almost causing me to break down in the interview, but I will admit, it brought me to tears several separate times during my drive home in a torrential downpour, and I know that I will never forget that shared moment with this beautiful little miracle child.
The late great Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said “Occasionally in life there are those moments of unutterable fulfillment which cannot be explained by those symbols called words. Their meanings can only be articulated by the inaudible language of the heart.”
I’ve read that quote a few times in my life, and while I always thought it to be tremendously profound, to be completely honest, it meant nothing more than fleeting inspiration to something I had yet to experience or comprehend in any moment in my life other than that miraculous moment of euphoria when my own children were born.
The DelRiccos now cling to little moments, and those moments are both a fuel to help them carry on through the darkest of days, and a currency that makes them rich in one way, and in another way, may not be transferable in the harsh realities of harsh reality. They can’t undo what has been done, and they can only hold onto each other and walk together into the great unknown with the love they have in their hearts.
There was once a world filled with the same dreams and excitement of raising their young family on the coast as my wife and I had when we moved here from Philly to raise ours.
Sage loved her preschool, Ava loved playing dress up and going to the beach. George and Anne Marie were excited about this coastal paradise, and that dream was shattered in just one reckless and selfish moment by a man who was high on drugs and driving out of control.
Every moment is a small miracle and a huge milestone for this healing family. Take, for instance, when Ava smiled for the first time a few weeks ago, or when she was taken off the breathing tube in the hospital just two weeks after the accident when doctors feared she may never do so, or when she calls out for her “momma” in a way that only a sweet 2-year-old can.
Those are the moments that no words are true enough or powerful enough to explain or quantify.
This weekend, there will be several fundraisers all focused to raise as much money for the family to help fund Ava’s expensive medical treatments and rehabilitation that she will need for the foreseeable future.
And they need us now more than ever.
Sometimes as a journalist, you desensitize yourself to the magnitude of the things you are covering as a coping mechanism, and whatever feeble wall I tried to build around myself to “do my job properly” was broken down the moment I laid eyes on that little angel and her family. And unfortunately, the media often takes tragedies like this and turns them into “exclusive” sit downs and ratings drivers for sweeps week, and that is honestly something that sickens me about the profession.
But in all my years of doing this, my afternoon with the DelRiccos changed me and my outlook on all of this: what I do for a living and how I do it, and who I am as a man, a father and an artist.
It shouldn’t be about who gets the exclusive interview, what this family needs is for the most amount of people possible to hear this story and for once, use the 24-hour stream of information for good and important things like helping real people and their innocent children who are enduring the most heinous examples of how unfair life can be.
We’ve seen a bit of this on the Internet with the Ava YouTube videos, which are on the verge of going viral. A thought, a prayer, a video, a link can be sent out into the world and it can snowball and all of a sudden, there is a community of strangers all unified in a cause, which in this case, is trying to help a sweet little girl and her loving family have the best future they can together.
So go to these events, give what you can, and keep on with the support and the prayers, because it means more to this family than can be put into words, and you are becoming a part of something that is nothing short of a miraculous series of moments that are happening right now in the lives of the DelRiccos.
There’s a picture next to Ava’s crib of little Ava the day before the accident. Ann Marie says Ava was “her little over-achiever”, and if you think about it, based on how far she’s come, she still is over-achieving and defying the odds, but there is still a long and hard road ahead.
The DelRicco’s have begun this new chapter of their lives, and they admit to feeling very alone as they walk into the great unknown of their daughter’s future.
But, they don’t have to go it alone, and I implore you with all my heart, having had the privilege to experience the love they have for each other for just a few hours, to help and don’t forget them.
We can walk beside them and maybe in doing so, we can be a part of a series of moments that are unutterable fulfillments of things that cannot be explained by those symbols we call words.
Because i I’m being honest, as both a dad and a journalist, I reckon the language of the heart probably sounds a lot like the voice of a little girl, and that is beauty and truth, and everything that is good in this world.
(The writer is the host of Coastal Connection, a public radio show which airs Fridays at noon on WRAU 88.3 FM. You can hear Bryan’s conversation with the DelRicco’s at www.wamucoast.org.)