My son approached me with a mumbling voice and red rimmed eyes. The next day was his 7th birthday, the one he shares with his older twin brother. The day had worn him down, his wavy blonde hair had begun to curl around his ears and he was rubbing his tired eyes.
“Mommy, will you come and sing that song, the one you sing when we’re sick?”
From the first moment I saw my sons, there in incubators with respirators, I vowed they would know my voice. When I could reach into their warm and humid little isolettes and feel their breath as they inhaled and exhaled, I wanted them to know that I was right there too. Before their eyes could focus on me, before their ears would develop their shape, they would know me, my voice, my song.
So, the day after the c-section, I walked into the NICU that was now their home indefinitely, I stuck out my chin and was the new determined mommy who was going to be the best.
My mind was blank, I didn’t know what song to sing. What song would define me and what I felt for my children, my small tiny little men that were fighting for their lives? Fleeting variations of hymns floated through my mind, but the words seemed to escape me, and the words to me, being a writer, were essential. They had to mean what my heart was needing to convey to them as I sang it to them.
Then an image came to my mind from my own history, it was a cheesy watch that I used to have with sunflowers on the dial. I could push a little button on the side and it would play a song, a song that was perfect.
I started humming, sweet and low, and the words came back to me easily.
“You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. You make me happy, when skies are grey. You’ll never know dear, how much I love you. So please don’t take my sunshine away.”
When this last phrase crossed my lips, it was a plea to God and no one else. I begged him as I sang and tears streamed down my face. “Please don’t take my sunshines away.”
Now my son Wesley was helping me remember those days, my machine days as my mother termed them, but in a good way. I lifted Wes, who is over 4 feet tall and 57 pounds, and he encompassed me in a bear hug. I couldn’t imagine the smile I had on my face when my husband watched as I swayed slowly and sang quietly to my sleepy son. After singing it twice, I put him down to stand on his own, and promised to sing to him again when he was tucked in to bed.
It was a song that I sang to them when they were sick, when they were scared and uncertain. I dreamed that they would sing it to their kids, knowing how it affected them when they were feeling sad. And while he wasn’t sick right now, knowing that he loved that song made their birthday just a little easier for me this year.
So, when he was laying in his top bunk bed I sang it one more time, pressing my cheek to his little forehead, feeling him breathe deeper and relax peacefully.
While Gabriel during this whole time, didn’t request the song, I always sang it to him in those uncertain times too. So, as I tucked the blankets around his little freckled face, I asked if he wanted the song too. He shrugged his shoulders and said, “I don’t know.” So I asked if it would be okay if I did, and he nodded, almost tearing up the eyes he shares with his daddy. I sang it to him then and was amazed as I could literally see it affect his eyelids that started to sink, his head to loll to the side in peace.
“You make me happy when skies are grey,” I brushed the straight red hair from his forehead, marveling at the soft and beautiful color of my son. “You’ll never know dear, how much I love you,” his eyes closed.
“So please don’t take my sunshine away.”
And while I finished the song with a kiss goodnight, I was still begging God to leave them here with me, for my enjoyment, my pleasure, my sunshines in the darkest of times and in the dire times. It took a sleepy request from the miracle men in my life to remember that I need them more than I ever thought possible. The song I sang reminds them that I am always going to be there to calm their fears and make them feel better, long after I’m gone.
I want a lullaby faith.