June 13, 2009:
Back to our trip home the other day…
We were driving through that little city where Josh had his heart surgery and I found myself in disbelief that it has been so long. Almost 21 months have passed since that day. The skyline is changing as they build newer and bigger buildings around the hospital – a new parking garage, a big oval glass building that I think is a cancer pavilion, a tall thing still being worked on by the same cranes that Josh looked out on with wonder from that hallway window.
When we were away last week we went to the pool one day and the kids all enjoyed it very much. As I watched my kids play I noticed how faded Josh’s scar is. Well, until he gets really cold and turns purple, that is! Then the scar is white and more obvious! Sometimes I run my hand over the scar to see how it feels and am always amazed at how small it is and how well it healed.
As we drove through there on our way home I thought about that day at the pool and the scar on his chest. It took me back to the night before his surgery, when everyone else was already in bed, fitfully asleep, when Isuddenly remembered that I had been given the task of washing my son’s chest with a special antibacterial scrub before he went to sleep.
I didn’t want to do it. In fact in that moment I came pretty darn close to hating that surgeon for asking me to do it. I picked up my drowsy son and carried him to the bathroom, helped him undress, and stood him in the shower. I picked up the sealed package and tore it open. The sterile sponge had a bright orange soap solution, and I got it wet and began my job. I couldn’t cry. I couldn’t scream. I couldn’t grieve for the innocence about to be lost. I just did what a mother does; I held my chin up and talked calmly to my son and hoped he couldn’t see the terror in my eyes, while in my mind I could only ask God why.
Why did my son have to go through this? Why couldn’t I fix it? Why did I have to be so helpless? And Why did I have to be the one to scrub his chest and prepare it for what was about to be done? That perfect, smooth, unbroken skin made my heart ache to look at.
God whispered back when that last question tried to overwhelm me, “it’s a privilege, not a punishment.”
I wasn’t helpless. I had a specific job to do, a task given to me to complete faithfully, and another one following that: to get him in bed and to sleep, then to sleep myself. At some point that night I did sleep, I think, in between nursing little 4 month old Laney. And in the morning I knew I had another task set before me to faithfully complete: taking Josh to the prep room at the right time and keeping myself together. Every tiny little task that was completed was followed by another and another, until the time had come and there was nothing more to do but pray and wait, and even in that praying I had some tiny realization in the back of my very harried mind that I was not completely helpless as I reached up to the throne of God.
And so we survived. So many parents go through so much more. I know my experience doesn’t even compare to some. My heart will always be with those moms and dads, with those children with broken hearts and those with every other disease and injury that takes their lives and turns them upside down. A little piece of my soul will always be in that little city. I think that’s kind of typical of a place where you’ve lost a big chunk of your innocence.
In the end, I didn’t mind the scar. When I first saw his chest after surgery, yes, it was big and red and glaring, but it was beautiful at the same time. It meant that he was alive! He was ALIVE!! That his heart was fixed, that it was done and the fear could begin to fade just like the scar would fade, until they were both just soft, always there reminders of where we’ve been and what the Lord has carried us through.