AFTER THE NIGHTMARE

Every summer when Caleb heads to the pool, he glances over his shoulder. The scar that runs the length of his back grows along with him, stretching. Widening.


“Don’t worry about it,” Grandpa tells him. “Girls love scars.” Caleb rolls his eyes, grinning.


Caleb’s recovery was nothing short of miraculous. Literally. We kept a running tally: paralysis we barely missed, surgeons who “happened” to be on hand, and - greatest of all - complete recovery. Despite all predictions, the only lasting effect has been that scar.


And the night terrors.


They started when Caleb was so very young. I can’t actually remember a time before them. After dark, we’d hear the scream. Then the begging. “Please! Help me! Mommy! Help me!”


The doctor said not to wake him. “It wouldn’t work anyway,” and "it could cause more trauma."


“Just stay in the room until he stops and make sure he doesn’t hurt himself."


If you ever wonder what hell is like, I have some ideas.


Sometimes, the night terrors would last minutes. Sometimes, hours. I would sit beside his bed, white knuckling the frame, waiting for the moment when he would come to himself and I could snatch him up in my arms.


Then I’d rock and sing and tell stories until his chest rose and fell in a regular rhythm. I’d wipe the sweat from his hair and the tears from his face. I’d pull up the covers and beg God for sleep.


The terrors have faded as the years have passed but he still wears the scars – both inside and out. Still, he startles in the dark. Still, he fears the demons of night.


So do I.


Perhaps, in a way, we all do.


The demons come calling for all of us: depression, anxiety, lust, apathy, discontent, power, and all their blackest kin come creeping up when we’re unprepared.


I wrote this poem about the things that go bump in the night, sure. But even more – I wrote this poem as a battle cry.


Because the King owns even the night.


And we are not alone.





AFTER THE NIGHTMARE


Hush, my boy.

Your Mama’s here.

Dry your tears;

it was only a dream.


Only it wasn’t,

and I know the night

is dark and wild

with yellow eyes

and hungry cries

creeping out from the fold

of your covers. I know

it keeps you awake.


It keeps me awake.

And no “monster spray”

or soothing coos

will lull us back to sleep.


Since the bite and the curse,

we’ve all felt the fear –

(yes, even the grown-ups

especially the grown-ups) –


of the ancient foe

who lurks in the dark

slithering his way

up the posts of our beds.


I’m sorry, my child,

I don’t mean to scare you

so I’ll read you a tale

of dragons and knights,


of Lucy and Aslan

of Frodo and Sam

because, my son,

when you face the dragon –


and yes, my beloved,

you will face him indeed –

I hope you remember

the stories of courage


of bravery in battle

of comrades and queens

of the triumph of good

at the end of the day.


The King is with you.

He is Spirit and Sword,

Excalibur shaping

in the palm of your hand


and I’m with you too,

to wear the ring

or empty a vial

or hold on to your hand.


I know the enemy

is fierce and strong

but his end is already written,

and you’re not the only one afraid.



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