I pushed back the rail
reverently and climbed in
his hospital bed.
Take off your shoes, God whispered.
This is your holiest ground.
It’s been twelve years since that terrible day but I can be back in that room in a second. It doesn’t take much. A baby cries. I catch a whiff of disinfectant. A phone ping sounds like a heart monitor.
Caleb was six months old, and absolutely perfect. All health and squeals and chubby sweetness.
Then the fevers started.
Two weeks later, the doctor shrugged in confusion and I packed a bag for the hospital.
The next day, the surgeon told me to kiss my son goodbye. Just in case.
The months that followed are a blur. Drinking hospital coffee, reciting new terminology, tracing fingers along my baby’s broken body.
It’s been twelve years but when I read this poem, I’m back in the room again. Remembering.
It was the day of his last surgery. It was a routine procedure, unlike the others. All things considered, we weren’t that concerned. Until, as the surgery ended, a nurse came into the room.
“We need you, Mom.”
I followed her through swinging doors, into the recovery wing.
“The surgery went fine but he isn’t coming out of anesthesia well. We’ve done everything we can to help him settle. He needs you now."
That’s when they wheeled him out. I caught my breath. There he was - a tiny baby, wired with ports and tubes and an iv bag. My tiny baby, eyes scrunched shut, groaning and rolling on a giant, sterile gurney.
Right there in the fluorescent hallway, I pushed past the nurse, moved aside the drains, and climbed in the bed with him.
They wheeled us to the recovery room, baby wrapped around wires, mother wrapped around baby.
They left us in the dark, tangled and weeping. I shushed and sang and tried to soothe him as he writhed beside me.
“Oh God, I can’t do it,” I gasped, as I stroked my child’s crinkled forehead. “How can I handle my baby’s pain?”
Caleb let out another cry and I curled around him tighter. “I’m here,” I whispered, as my tears fell on his hair. “I’m here.”
And there He was. I sensed Him lowering the rail to the hospital bed. Climbing in beside me. Wrapping Himself around me in the same way that I wrapped myself around my son.
“I’m here,” He whispered. “I’m here.”
Caleb and I exhaled in tandem. Child, mother, God. A tangled heap in a hospital bed.
“I AM,” He whispered, the way He had done centuries before in that lonely desert.
I recognized His face in the flame. And there in the darkness, I slipped off my shoes.