Going back to the week we spent at the UK Children’s Hospital when the perfect gift with the perfect quote came into the NICU.

We had already been at the NICU for a few days, and I had started to find my composure somewhat. Emotionally, I had to simply shut some things off. I had a wife and a newborn son to take care of. A situation, in normal circumstances, which would have been a lot, but in my new situation, it was that and a lot more.

By this point, we were already accustomed to people sending or dropping stuff off at the hospital. “Nothing” was an unacceptable answer when asked if we needed something. So when we saw this woman walking with the monkey and blanket turn towards our room, we immediately assumed it was just another token from a sibling. (At this point we hadn’t publicly shared what we were going through except with family.)

Everything changed when I sat down and pulled the card out to see who our gift was from. Expecting to see a name, or a well wish, I instead see 3 words that immediately hit me.

Three words, which to most, would have no meaning, but to me, they meant the world.

“On your left”

Originating in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, when Sam Wilson (Falcon) and Steve Rogers first meet as they jog around the National Mall in Washington D.C. During the scene, Steve continues to lap Sam, and each time he does, he calls out “On your left.”

Fast forward to the climax of Avengers: Endgame when Sam can be heard on Cap’s comm “On your left” ushering the charge of reinforcements from the revived and fallen heroes.

For anyone that has followed and watched the Marvel films, it’s an emotional callback. We’ve seen our heroes beaten to the brink of defeat, when at the last moment, reinforcements come in, lifting our heroes and leading to victory.

So when I read those 3 words, emotions hit me hard.

I admit, I cried almost immediately. I didn’t even have to read the names that accompanied the quote; I knew.

This was really the first time since my son was laying on that table in the delivery room that I hadn’t felt alone. Up to this point, I had felt the weight of everything on my shoulders. My son was facing an unknown future. Unknown health issues. My wife, heartbroken and scared of what could happen next. Because of COVID, no family could visit. It was my sole responsibility to keep things together and keep things moving. I was alone on an island.

Until “On your Left”

After that moment, after reading those words, I was no longer alone. No longer feeling alone.

It’s one of those things that has stayed with me since and will always be with me (literally, it’s in my wallet).

It’s become a bit of a mantra for me during all this.

I could write a book about this simple card and 3 simple words.

There’s a reason I said we had only really told family up to this point rather than family and friends.

These two gentlemen are family, and I’m forever grateful to have them on my left


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