Today, I’m thinking about Deborah. Hmm. I’m getting too personal. That’s because she told a personal story, which makes me think very personally about her. I’m referring to Dr. Deborah Birx. Everyone paying any attention to the news concerning the coronavirus knows about Dr. Birx. Dr. Deborah Leah Birx.
Her father, Donald Birx, was a mathematician and electrical engineer. Her mother, Adelle, was a nursing instructor. One brother, I’ve read, was or is a nuclear engineer and the other a mathematician. This family is both inspiring and intimidating.
According to Wikipedia, “Birx lives with her parents, husband, and one of her daughter’s family in a multi-generational home.” My curiosity was piqued. Birx is her maiden name. She has a husband and daughters, but who is her husband? She goes by her maiden name, lives in a multi-generational home, and I learned she has grandchildren. But I couldn’t discover the man. Then I found a name.
At least, a last name. At the follow site (http://www.allgov.com/officials/birx-deborah?officialid=30329 ), I discovered the names of her daughters, which listed their last names: Raybuck. Actually Birx-Raybuck. So, the mystery husband is Mr. Raybuck. I wonder. What he is like? What does he do? How does he support his wife in her work?
I would love to live in a multi-generational home. Wow. How wonderful to have your parents in their own apartment, you and your spouse in yours, and one of your grown children and family in the rest of the house, the main portion, with a big, back yard. To me, that would be a dream.
Deborah seems so calm and measured. I wonder if her daughters are like that. Generally, each child is so different from each parent, yet has characteristics of each. This Birx-Raybuck family has grandchildren, but I don’t know how many.
So, you may wonder why I’m particularly fascinated with Dr. Deborah Leah Birx , but I would guess that she’s caught your attention too! Well, I have at least three, specific reasons, and the third I find to be inspirational.
First, she is about my age (she is less than two years younger than I). This Saturday, April 4, will be her 64th birthday; I am still 65 (until July 1). I wish that I could wish her a HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!
Second, she is passionate about learning, and so am I. I find such people to be so exciting. Her passion is in the world of science, and my passions are in the fields of literature and theology. She has amazing strength and endurance; I have limited stamina and strength. (Oh dear, oh dear! I’ve fallen into the pool of comparison! Let me swim to the side and get out.) When you look at her work record, her research productivity, I am delighted, awed, and I am totally intimidated. (I found a list of her published works.) In her, I see the outcomes of exercised potentiality: what one is capable of accomplishing and becoming if one has sufficient health, opportunity, and determination. I thank God for her life.
There is a third and main reason I became fascinated with her. First, I must say that she had me in the palm of her hand from the first week of briefings, because of her patient demeanor, her orderly appearance (her interesting penchant for wearing scarves), and her exacting details, articulated in a measured, kindly, school teacher or motherly fashion, not as an elitist professor. Yes, she is like one of my favorite childhood school teachers, who always brought order and reason to a chaotic mob of children, who then in turn adored their teacher because she shaped us into the beings we wanted to be but weren’t sure we could be. And then those eyes of hers, regarding us with pride. Ah. You think I’ve gone sappy, over the top.
But, I see that expression in Dr. Deborah Birx’s eyes as she looks into the audience or camera. She loves people, and she expects to us to do right, and she expects to be proud of us. I sort of feel like that little school girl again, even though I’m a bit older than she is!
This is all charming, but then there’s one next step that good teachers and good mamas take, very naturally, not manipulatively. It’s genuine: the step into being personal. Opening themselves up and taking us into themselves. And then, we children bond with mama or the teacher.
It happened just a few days ago that Dr. Deborah Leah Birx became personal with our country. And to me, she became Deborah. This is my third point, the inspirational point. In the middle of this long briefing, she told her grandmother’s story.
Deborah Leah’s grandmother was named Leah. When Leah was eleven years old, she caught the flu at school, back in 1918, and brought it home. Her mother had just had a baby, caught this flu, and died. This was during the 1918 influenza pandemic, and little Leah lived 88 years, never forgetting that she passed on an illness that killed her mother. Innocent as it was, it was a weight to carry.
So, Dr. Deborah Leah Birx simply and concisely tells this story as her urgent plea to Americans. Calmly and wisely she concludes, “This is why we keep saying to every American: You have a role to protect each and every person that you interact with. We have a role to protect one another.”
At this point, the scientist grandmother with a school teacher demeanor became Deborah to me. Personal.
How proud Grandmother Leah would be of Granddaughter Deborah Leah. Generations after Leah’s own suffering, Deborah Leah would lead in redeeming that suffering, the suffering of a little girl who innocently brought sickness and inadvertently brought death into her own home.
And if you are young, and you live, and you are healthy, or are just somewhat healthy, I pray that you will devote your life to some passion, just as Dr. Deborah Leah Birx has. Certainly her life’s work as a physician and diplomat specializing in HIV/AIDS immunology, vaccine research, global health, and now on the White House Coronavirus Task Force, is a testament to her passion — her love for her grandmother and family and for all people, everywhere, for whom she has dedicated her life.
Remember that the root meaning of passion is suffering. Suffering calls to us, pulling us deeply into meaning and purpose in life. Our call is rooted in the passion/suffering of someone we love, or what we’ve witnessed, or our own personal experience. Passion called Dr. Deborah Leah Birx, and we are beneficiaries of her response. So we can say, “Thank you, Deborah!”
It is now the season of The Passion of Christ, isn’t it? This Sunday is Palm Sunday. I am writing a weekly post during this pandemic. In my next post (a heavy post needing much prayer), Lord willing, I hope to explore some thoughts on why we have suffering, why we have pandemics, and I hope to relate personal suffering to the passion of Jesus. So we can say: “Thank You, Jesus!”
Check out these sites (Three about Dr. Birx; print the fourth, a Coronavirus Prayer Guide):
Great read Karen! I have been interested in Dr. Birx as well. Thanks so much!