Mollie's first couple of weeks were very rough at first. She was born a month early with a cleft palette. A cleft palette, for those who are unaware is a small hole in the roof of the mouth. This made it hard for her to suck on the bottle and as a result, her weight gain was very slow at first.
One night Mom and Dave were getting ready to go for a drive. I sat with Mollie and held her frail and tiny body in my arms as she cried.
"Don't worry baby sister Mollie," I whispered. "You've got our blood in you. I know you'll pull through this."
A few weeks into the month of November she was given surgery for the cleft palette. Then later on, when she was having difficulties breathing, an incision was made in her trachea and a tube inserted into it.
This added the arduous routine of "suctioning" Mollie's trachtube. Mom or Dave would sit with her and insert a smaller tube into the trachtube. Then a machine would remove whatever fluids were building up inside.
But slowly she began to gain the weight she had lost.
Living on my own and working about thirty-five hours a week made seeing Mollie difficult. But whenever I had the day or the weekend off I would drop by to see my sister.
Dave had to work during the week so I would try to help Mom in whatever way I could.
While she had the trachttube, you could barely hear Mollie's voice. You saw her crying for attention, but you had to be watching her or you would never hear her voice. Sometimes a faint squeak would come through, but otherwise it was a silent and powerful crying. It was heartbreaking, watching my little sister trapped in that silence.
The months past and February came, the week of Mollie's baptism. Because her father, Dave was born in Cooperstown, New York, that's where we went for the baptism.
We stayed at Dave's parent's house and met new members of the family whom I was happy to meet. It was a small and somewhat childish consolation to discover that in a room full of new cousins I was still the oldest.
The church was a hundred year old red brick building. It was about the right size for a town like this. Inside the pews glistened in the brightly lit building.
The paintings of St. Anthony, the staute of the Virgin Mary and the crucifix decorating the church were beautiful in this place of worship. It didn't have any of the hi-tech video projectors and overpowering boomboxes that you could find in many modern churches, but that was fine with me. Small, simple and quiet was better than big, loud and modern in my book.
Mom and Dave stood at the alter with Mollie and Aunt Gene and Uncle John, her godparents, were with them.
Mollie, in the hands of my mother and dressed in a beautiful white baptism dress made in Ireland, looked like a small angel as the priest went through the ceremony.
I can't remember much of what the priest said. But a very specific part of the baptism stands out in my mind as it will till the day I die.
He placed his hand in the Holy water and made the sign of the cross over Mollie. Then, he placed a hand on her ears.
"And Jesus touched the ears of the deaf to make them hear."
Then he placed his hand on her lips.
"And the lips of the mute to give them a voice."
The rest of his words were lost in the flurry of flash photography that erupted from the cameras of my aunts and uncles. But the loudest voice of all, was the voice of my sister.
Mollie's crying could be heard loud and clear. The soft, demanding cry of a six month old baby, the way we were meant to hear it. With each breath my soul was touched like an angel's hand caressing my heart.
You could hear her cry. But strangely enough no one could hear me cry that day.
"Thank you, God," I prayed. "Thank you for letting me hear her voice."