My sweet boy is hungry and I cannot feed him. Belly needing to stay empty for surgery, my eyes plead apology as I gaze down at him. He grins wide, not realizing what this day will bring.
Hand in hand, my husband and I bring our 4th born to the hospital, searching for courage but finding little. We whisper frantic prayers, trying hard to stay calm.
It's standard procedure. Should only take an hour. Happens all the time. They bounce right back. These phrases bring little comfort, but we cling to them nonetheless, willing to try on anything that cloaks the pain and worry.
Down the hall we march past other kids and parents. United in our stress, we don't need to speak. We exchange knowing glances finding comfort in fellow faces lined with anxiety. And the children--waiting so brave. The little blond boy, pale faced, hugging a Garfield stuffed animal plays video games. The sweet little girl with the pony-tail swinging and dress twirling about, prances across the waiting room while worried parents hover nearby, pained smiles across their faces. They glance at our baby carrier and wince. A baby. We silently wonder what each one is here for--what little broken places need fixing.
We walk the corridor to the pre-op room and I lose it. You never realize just how much you'd sacrifice for your child until you're confronted with their frailty. I would give anything, do anything to avoid my sweet little boy being taken away--life in the hands of a surgeon we barely know. And I know this kind of love comes from elsewhere. From Love Itself. From love on a cross. And every painful brush with death I've had comes to mind--thoughts of eternity looming too close. I find myself dangling in the uncomfortable space between Earth and Heaven, where the separation feels thin, like moth's wings. When your heart just might burst from the momentousness of it all, and you're broken open to life's bigger lessons, delivered in painful packaging.
The nurses try their best to console and pass boxes of tissue, because they know. They see these looks every day. They wear crazy happy shoes of tie-dye and zebra stripes, don teddy bear scrubs and name tags with shiny stickers. Anything to make this place feel more like a warm happy place instead of this space between. Despite their efforts to comfort, the clock on the wall looks cold, metering time much too slowly. It cares not for solace, wears no face of pity. It just keeps pace-- this rhythm of life and death. Tick tock. Tick tock. My little one is taken from my arms, crying hysterically from hunger and confusion and now its time to wait.
We all deal with these moments differently. The man eating crackers by the handful, tossing crinkly red wrappers in the bin nearby. The brunette woman sipping hot chocolate, glancing nervously at her iphone, a welcome distraction. There are muted chuckles across the room--and I understand the times when you just can't help but laugh instead of cry. A man in the room next door faces Mecca, alternately bowing and clutching his chest, eyes closed, whispering reverent prayers. I can't help but stare in awe at this private moment between a man and his faith. The space between brings us all to our knees and I stare at my empty baby carrier, waiting, wondering.
Surgeons come with reports for some--just a little longer now. Things went very well. The face of relief is universal and I want to reach out and celebrate right along with those whose wait is over. They hug teddy bears tight and wipe tears of relief, unable to contain broad smiles of joy. And though it's only an hour it feels like an eternity and finally our smiling face comes to greet us, too. Everything's fine, the hernia was large, you can come and see him now.
Down the hall, sighs of relief rise in our throats. We pass other children, some recovering, some entering their own space between. There's a brave bald-headed little girl being wheeled away and mingled with my own relief is the pain of others right here in this place--the place where life and death come together. My heart aches for this girl and the others like her, and I am faced with my sense of helplessness once more. The pain of this world is too large, too real, too present. The banged up, broken, ripped up places inside us all that need stitching back together and the knowledge that only He can truly repair it.
I hold my sweet groggy boy in my arms, a hazy fog taking over from exhaustion and emotional overload. My mind is fuzzy but my heart swells big as I hold my little boy to my chest, wires and monitors still attached. The computer screen throbs signs of life but I know the biggest signs of life are the throbs of love we feel here, in the space between. Thankful for another life lesson of sacrificial love, the universal language, this bumpy road of motherhood brings, I prepare to take my little one home. Though relieved my heart still aches for the others in this place--the ones still wearing their faces of bravery and worry. I want to tell them it will all be ok, but I don't know that and who really does but our Maker? The elevator doors open as the clock on the wall keeps metering out the moments--the big, the little, the ones that make you yearn to reach out and grasp the hand of the kneeling man and the girl sipping cocoa. Here, in this sacred space between we are all swirling together like tie-dyed shoes, trying our best to love and to live. In the space between, we are One Body.
"So in Christ we, though many, form one body, and we all belong to each other."