I said to you, “Have no dread or fear . . . The LORD your God, who goes before you, is the one who will fight for you, just as he did for you in Egypt before your very eyes, and in the wilderness, where you saw how the LORD your God carried you, just as one carries a child, all the way that you traveled until you reached this place.”Deuteronomy 1:29-31
All the way that you traveled . . . I can’t believe it’s been 10 weeks since Sam’s surgery. I thought we would be back to normal life by now, settling into the new school year, a new rhythm. Instead, we are just beginning to process what happened to our family this last spring and summer. I didn’t realize this event, this new journey, was a trauma until now. I just walked it, breathed in and out, hoped, endured. But now, as I find it difficult to pull myself out of bed, find myself apologizing to Bram’s preschool teachers because he is 5, 10, or 40 minutes late, cry over a disorganized drawer or overflowing craft closet filled with half-finished projects from two years ago . . . I realize I am just a little bit of a wreck.
At our most recent appointment at Children’s we learned that while Sam is stable now, his right ventricle is not nearly as functional as we had hoped. This means that we are most likely not done with surgeries. We are not done. And, the next surgery he is slated to have in 2-4 years is much more extensive.
We weren’t expecting that, not at all. It hit hard, harder than I have allowed myself to even entertain. Loved ones offer encouraging words, and we are overjoyed that he is stable and happily playing in the backyard today. But the fact of the matter is: this journey continues for us. I thought we were crossing over, getting over this hurdle, and moving on with our lives. But if feels instead that we are caught in yet another limbo, waiting to see what will happen, asking God to intervene, back to wondering if Sam—, and when Sam–
This is not the jubilant crossing-over procession I had envisioned. I envisioned a moment of trumpets (yes, I know, my overly biblical imagination really does over-inflate my expectations at times) blasting a hallelujah tune as we crossed over from the pre-Glenn wilderness into a new heart-stable life with Sam. I pondered which “rocks” I would utilize to build a memorial in remembrance of this crossing over experience (please see Joshua 3 & 4 if my references aren’t making sense).
But the last thing I want to do right now is build a memorial to remember my baby with a tube down his throat pumped full of meds restrained in a crib in the CICU. The last thing I want to think about is how his cries sounded like a newborn once he was extubated because his vocal chords were so scratched. I look at the zipper scar on Sam’s chest ten times a day, and it still pulls in the deep corners of this mother-heart. Even as he plays, I mourn and remember this terrible journey: every step, every breath-holding moment, every echo, every single heart beat.
So, please excuse me as I sit down on the riverbank and curl into myself, take a moment or a year to cry. I mourn this entire journey, all the pain and terror, all the concessions I have made to survive, all the me I have relinquished to keep persisting. I mourn that so much of Sam’s and Abraham’s lives have been experienced through a lens of pain. I want to do over their babyhoods without such desperate mourning and fear. I want to enjoy them again for the first time, with innocent eyes.
But, I suppose that rainbows are born of storms. And we’ve been given two.
I’ve been reading Deuteronomy and Joshua lately, trying to get at the heart of what it is to cross over. Yahweh is adamant throughout the Hebrew Bible that we recount the stories of His victories, all the while keeping alive the anguish of Egypt and the cost of our deliverances. It is our STORY that marks us as a people—God’s people. Our Story continually redeems as it reminds and instructs us again and again about the nature of God’s love for us, and the lengths He will go to woo, save, and carry us through.
I have always assumed that to cross over was to leave behind, shed our wilderness selves, our manna- and quail- eating skins, “shake off our heavy chains”. But what did it mean for the Hebrews? To cross from wilderness to Promised Land?
I am so war-weary, so crossing-over-aged, that I cannot even imagine marching into the Promised land right now. So, I’ll be at the riverbank for a while if any of you need me. I’ll be the heap in the sand, probably eating some cookie dough or drinking a glass of wine.
But even in my heaping, even in my plain-old-“Lord, I can’t walk another step”-ness, He assures me,
Even to your old age I will be the same,
And even to your graying years I will bear you!
I have done it, and I will carry you;
And I will bear you and I will deliver you.
Lord, I’m yours to carry.
On the riverbank,