A year ago today, we sat by Tarica’s bed at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, waiting for the MRI results. We did not know what was wrong with her, and we prayed for strength to face the verdict.
Today, another set of parents sit by the bedside of another little girl in another hospital. Shianna had a severe seizure last night and was airlifted because she was unresponsive. I don’t want to think about the terror her parents felt. And her story strikes closely home: She is my cousin’s daughter.
After I heard the news, I put my head down on the table and cried one big gulping sob. But no more. Tears would not help. I sat up, wiped my eyes, and reached for the words.
This one is for Shianna, for all the little ones who fight battles bigger than they are, battles that break our hearts.
* * *
When they were small and sad, I held them until they smiled. When they fell in those first toddling steps, I scooped them up and kissed away the hurt.
Our world was little and safe and predictable. I doctored scrapes and colds, and I made oatmeal and promises, and we all lived as happily as if Ever After was now. I loved my children so strong it felt as if nothing could touch us.
But reality pricked holes into my cocoon of safety. There was the burn on Jenica’s face, scars she still wears. There was Tarica’s colic, and there was Micah’s repeated bronchiolitus/asthma attacks during his first year. There was the challenge of helping our daughters negotiate broadening social worlds and the difficulties found outside our sheltering walls.
My children faced problems I could not fix. I was helpless to counteract their pain, and it hurt. I wanted nothing more than to preserve our safe little world.
And then came—not a pinprick, but a slash, a tear, a gash through my world. Epilepsy took away my safety net, and I fell and fell and fell.
I could not love her enough to protect her, to heal her, to make promises, and it was a slash, a tear, a gash through my heart.
I think all mothers face this sooner or later. Some lose that safe cocoon on the day they find the unmistakable stamp of Down’s syndrome on their precious newborn’s face. Some lose their safety net in weeks spent in the NICU or in the wreckage of an accident or in the irrevocable words of a medical diagnosis. Social rejection. Academic failure. Marital conflict. Brutal words.
My love is not enough to keep my children safe.
What does a mother do when love is not enough?
She cries. She worries. She fears. She hugs them until they squirm in protest.
She alone is the mother of these children. No one else has loved them as she has, and who else feels this pain so deeply?
But if she is to be comforted, she also prays, because who else but God can comfort?
Lord, be for my children what I cannot.
And love—His love—is enough to bring us safely home.
* * *
P.S. I talked with Shianna’s aunt this morning, and it sounds like she is doing better. They suspect it was a febrile seizure.
No matter the diagnosis, it will be a long time before her parents forget the terror. I pray they will know God’s peace and comfort in the coming days.