Juniper was a beautiful newborn baby girl brought into this world in her mother’s 23rd week of pregnancy. Unfortunately, doctors had told them that babies born before the 24th week were not “viable,” and the tiny baby would likely not survive the night.
They were heartbroken, of course, but they also valued every moment of life as precious. Whatever time their child was going to spend living, they were grateful.
It was a painfully emotional night.
Juniper had been born weighing only one pound and four ounces, and she was placed in an incubator shortly after her birth.
And just as swiftly as the doctors had begun administering healthcare that gave Juniper the best odds of living, her parents did the same—but in their own way.
Dad started reading to her.
Tom grabbed the very first Harry Potter book and began reading it out loud to his daughter. The choice of literature was odd not only because of its length, but because the book is a bit advanced for a newborn. However, the story included children who fly and survive and thrive against the evils of the world, and Tom believed Juniper would like it.
He read aloud, “Chapter One: The Boy Who Lived.”
Tom’s wife didn’t get it at first. Had her husband lost his mind? “How about ‘Goodnight Moon’?” she offered. “That’s a good book.”
“No thank you,” said Tom as he kept reading. Both of them are self-described Harry Potter loyalists. Tom realized the power that was in his hands, and he continued to read.
“Stories are a promise,” Tom told his wife later. “They are a promise that the ending is worth waiting for.”
Juniper started to respond.
Juniper, as indicated by the machinery she was attached to, appeared to resonate with the reading material.
It helped her breathe better and controlled her body temperature. Tom read each and every paragraph in a soothing voice, and when he stopped, her oxygen levels would plummet and alarms would sound, indicating her discontent.
The nurses, seeing the results before their very own eyes, kept encouraging her dad to read.
They discovered hope.
Tom had discovered hope. In doing so, deflected his yearnings of recovery for someone he never wanted to lose. He wanted her to know the end of the story, every story.
It worked. Juniper thrived, beyond all expectation.
Five years later and a kindergartener, Juniper received a large box in the mail. Her curiosity had been piqued. Who sent this? Who knows me? Why now?
Rowling was touched by the story.
“Is dat for me?” Juniper asked. Her mom’s hands were shaking with anticipation. This was a secret that her mom had known about. She had received a Twitter message from Rowling.
She said she’d heard about Juniper on an episode of Radiolab, and was stunned to learn that Harry Potter was a part of it. Rowling said she cried and then sent a message saying she wanted to give the new family something special.
The young couple already felt fortunate enough to have Rowling’s story help them cope with so much in their time of need, and no additional gift was necessary. Nonetheless, there it was.
She sent a special message.
Delivered all the way from Scotland, the mom unwrapped Rowling’s books from the box, and gave them to her daughter. Juniper, as if the gift of books were human, hugged them tightly.
Included inside of the first book was a handwritten message from Rowling herself. It read: “To Juniper, The Girl Who Lived! With lots of love, J.K. Rowling.”