December 8th marks seven years since we were admitted to the hospital with my son, Thao. These memories and feelings are still so fresh. To all the mamas fighting for their child’s life today, this one is for you.
Oh, dear mama.
I know what happens when you cross that threshold. When the doors part and you enter in, it’s a whole different world on that side. A world where time stands still. A world where you cling to every breath. A world where literally nothing else matters except the tiny flicker of his eyes or the gentle squeeze of his hand.
I know this world. I lived there once. I know that food doesn’t taste the same. I know that you have to be reminded to nourish your own body while the thought and sound of food repulses you. I know that you force it down, because you have to be strong. Because you are fighting this battle and you do it for your child.
I know the guilt. I know that feeling of wanting to leave the room to eat just in case he can smell it. I know how much you want to feel what he feels, sacrifice what he cannot have, even trade places somehow. I know the feeling of guilt when you leave the room. When you visit with friends and family. When you feel fresh air. Or smile. Or laugh.
I know time passes slowly when you are waiting for that procedure to be over. When you are waiting for even a glimpse of good news. When the x-rays haven’t come back yet and you are holding your breath for just one good thing. The nights are long here. The noise of machines carrying your child through to morning, lulling you to restless sleep. The nurses in and out, the blood pressure rising and falling. You will his temperature to just be normal. You want one test to come back good. You hope for the sound of his voice.
I know you talk to him. You whisper in his ear and gently rub his hand. You run your fingers through his hair. You steady your voice and reassure him. You are calm and quiet. You are strong. But inside you are begging God for peace. Inside you fight the urge to ask aloud all the raging questions. The whys and hows and what ifs. You don’t let your mind wander too far for fear it won’t come back.
I know you don’t know how you’ll make it through. I know you cannot think about the future just yet. I know you are hanging on by a thread. I know the days are a blur. Words are weak in this moment. The world feels heavy and small. How can this be? These contradictions all living in the same space? Breathing the same air? This place where life and death meet? This is holy ground. This is the place where my son and my Savior came face to face. This is the place where he left my arms and went straight into the arms of our Creator. But even then, I think he was already there.
I know you are clinging to every breath right now. I know this may not be the way your story ends. And goodness, the Lord knows I hope it isn’t. I just want you to know, dear mama, I’ve been there, too. I’ve wondered with each rise and fall of his small chest, is this the last?
Believe it or not, mama, I miss this place. I miss those moments with my son. I don’t miss the suffering or wondering or guilt or tears. I don’t miss the decisions and questions and all the hard, scary episodes. But I miss the fluttering eyelashes and hand squeezes. I miss trimming his toe nails and listening for his voice. I miss him. His tiny body in a big bed. His huge personality in a small room. His fight. And let me tell you, he gave a good one.
Mama, it’s been seven years since I sat in that hospital room. I will never be the same.
And no matter the outcome, neither will you.
Hang in there, dear mama. You are one of a kind.
Hang in there, dear mama, you are tough.
Hang in there, dear mama, you are not alone.