"Could He Possibly Die, Kim?"
A young facebook friend asked an honest question about Nathaniel last week, “Could he possibly die, Kim?”
I had posted information about a doctor’s appointment and diagnosis, a newly found hole between the Nathaniel’s upper heart chambers. The question was genuine and filled with concern. I crafted an answer that tried to delicately balance between the truth of mortality rates for children with a tracheotomy and trusting in God.
The question has stayed on my mind. It has taken me back twenty-five years to a hot June night in 1990. I shifted between nestling against Rich’s chest with his arm wrapped around me and rolling onto my right side away from him. He would have slept soundly through my tossing until I deliberately woke him up.
“Will she die?” I asked.
It was our first-born. A six-month bundle of white blond hair, infectious smile, always dressed in blue baby girl. She was headed to the hospital soon for reconstruction surgery on her kidneys, ureters, and bladder.
“She’ll be fine,” Rich mumbled, needing rest after a long day of construction.
I remember well that his answer made me very angry. I was new in the school of motherhood and yielding my children to God. I wanted to hear someone promise my child would be ok, while also knowing that the knowledge of life and death and being ok were not a man’s to give.
It was a fitful night of wrestling with God. My first attempt of balancing on that tight rope stretched between the now of known safety and the unknowns of tomorrow. Between downy hair nestled against a neck and handing a child to a surgeon. Though overwhelmingly hard at the time, I grew as a mom and in my faith through my daughter's medical problems.
I had coffee with a seasoned mom yesterday. Collectively, we have mothered twenty-two children. She knows the ultimate wrestle of giving a child back to God and our eyes filled with tears as we spoke of her daughter and other children now resting in heaven. We spoke of our young men, strong and full of life. And without mentioning it, we each knew the silent question in our hearts when a car is late to return to the driveway on a Friday night, “Could he possibly die, God?” Because it is not a question reserved for mothers of children with medical complexities. It is a question asked by the mother of a child driving three hundred miles alone back to college and the mother sending a child to the first day of preschool. The mother of a child working in a crime riddled housing project and the mother of a child carrying a sharp knife for the first time. The mother of a child gathering cattle from a mountain pass on a below zero, pre-dawn morning and the mother of a child out of sight for a moment in the wilds of their own backyard.
The answer that stops the wrestle, that keeps the foot firmly balanced on the tight rope, that brings contented rest cuddled one with their father, is not the sleepy, “They’ll be fine.” But the Father's Word. “For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.”