A Shot of Redemption

Mr. Sam called me Monday about noon. “Are you around?”

I wasn’t. I’d been sick all weekend and was even at that moment in bed and awaiting a call from my doctor about antibiotics.

“I’m sorry Sam, I’m not. But what can I do for you?”

I knew what he wanted though. A progress report on some documents I’m trying to lay out for him.

“I’m so sorry they aren’t ready, I’ve been sick, blah, blah.”
He laughs at me.

“It’s completely fine, I actually have a new project to add the first project. Come see me Wednesday morning at 8:30.”

Oh snap. What have I gotten myself into? I know that is not going to happen. Way too early for me to comprehend his complex projects.

“Can we meet Thursday at 1:00 after the director’s meeting in Neighboring City?” (A mandatory thing I have to attend.)

“Sure Angel, I’ll see you then.”

He’s so good to pull me in on his projects in order to replace the slight reduction in pay rate I took a few months ago, so our facility could stay open four full days.

(I’m not a martyr or a do-gooder in general, I just like to do one thing for a longer period of time. I don’t want to mess with a half-day.)

Sam’s actual plan is to place me one full day at town hall, which I would love. In fact, I’d love to work for him full time because we are a lot alike. “Just be quite and work.”

Everyone says I’m a people person, but I know I’m not. Deep down I’m more like, “Shut up, just listen, let’s get this work done and no, we don’t have to chat while we do it.”

He really does need help on his projects but he has a degree of misplaced faith in me. Because he thinks I can do things I can’t, if I just set my mind to it. He is very much like Adam in that regard.

When I arrive he’s on the phone reading someone from the Department of Environmental Management the riot act and I know I’m out of my league already.

He soon turns his attention to assigning me another really hard project. And stares me down when he does it.

He’s just daring me to say, “I can’t.” I can see his hand ready to fly off his desk and into the universal sign for stop at the slightest hint of an excuse from me.

I fidget and take a deep breath and his fingers are already an inch into the air.

“Ok Sam, I’ll try.”

His weather-worn face breaks into a smile. “You’ve got this.”

A few seconds later the woman who complained about my pay rate steps into Sam’s office and his smile fades away. He doesn’t pretend to like her, but he isn’t rude.

“Angel will be turning in about 4-6 hours extra every week and she’s going to be doing the work Mondays, from home. Let me know what type of requisition you need from me.”

Her. Face. Fell.

Now that was a shot of redemption I never saw coming!

Mr. Sam starts to gather his laptop even though I’m still trying to question him on on the exact perimeters his needs.

“I’ve got to run to Neighboring City Angel, I’ll call you tomorrow.”

“Sam! You should have texted me if I can run an errand for you, or pick anything up while I’m there.”

I live in that metropolitan area, 30 miles from the rural city we work for and he lives in another smaller rural city, 30 miles in the other direction.

His smile is back, this time rueful and he tries to make a joke. “I would Angel, but they won’t let anyone else take my radiation.”

He leaves me sitting in his office, bewildered.

I knew he’d had surgery in January and had taken a leave, but I had no idea about this.

I wish I didn’t know.

sam

A man walks down the street
He says, “Why am I soft in the middle, now?
Why am I soft in the middle?
The rest of my life is so hard
I need a photo-opportunity
I want a shot at redemption
Don’t want to end up a cartoon
In a cartoon graveyard”

Bonedigger, Bonedigger
Dogs in the moonlight
Far away in my well-lit door
Mr. Beerbelly, Beerbelly
Get these mutts away from me
You know, I don’t find this stuff amusing anymore

If you’ll be my bodyguard
I can be your long lost pal
I can call you Betty
And Betty, when you call me, you can call me Al

A man walks down the street
He says, “Why am I short of attention?
Got a short little span of attention
And, whoa, my nights are so long
Where’s my wife and family?
What if I die here?
Who’ll be my role model
Now that my role model is gone, gone?”

He ducked back down the alley
With some roly-poly little bat-faced girl
All along, along
There were incidents and accidents
There were hints and allegations

A man walks down the street
It’s a street in a strange world
Maybe it’s the third world
Maybe it’s his first time around
Doesn’t speak the language
He holds no currency
He is a foreign man
He is surrounded by the sound, the sound
Cattle in the marketplace
Scatterings and orphanages
He looks around, around
He sees angels in the architecture
Spinning in infinity

He says, “Amen and Hallelujah!”

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He still misses her

I know that he still misses her, because he called me by her name yesterday.

When he walked in, (for the first time since December,) he said, “Hi mom, uh, uh, I mean, ‘hey Miss Angel!'”

Tears instantly sprang to my eyes while at the same time I was exclaiming with overwhelming joy, “Josh, you’re back!”

(His school schedule keeps him very busy.)

Josh flushed red so I knew he realized he’d called me mom. I pretend not to notice and flew around my desk to gather him into my arms.

It was a funny sight, me needing to stand on top-toes, even in heels, just to hug his neck, and him burying his head on my shoulder for a moment.

He was already tall, and as teen boys are want to do, he’d just kept growing.

When Josh and I first met, in May of 2018, he called me mom frequently. It was most often just a slip of the tongue, like when you have several kids whose first names start with the same letter.

(His mother was killed in a car accident near the end of 2017 and he’d come to our town to live with his grandmother.)

Some days, he’d call me mom and be completely spaced out, reliving a moment from the past.

There was one really hard day he tried to call her over and over again. That was the day I learned the true meaning of “tears falling like rain.”

Both of us.

Josh became my summer volunteer in 2018. I was very new to the career and the small town and I made a lot of mistakes, some I’m still paying for.

Josh was not one of those mistakes.

From the vantage point of almost a year, I can see that the summer I spent mothering him was not wasted time. Not because I did anything great, I didn’t. Josh just needed a place to be for a while.

Josh spent the day with me Wednesday. He had lots of new drawings for me to copy into his portfolio and lots of life updates to share.

Later in the day the facility traffic picked up and the noise made him nervous. (He’s high-functioning autistic.)

“Let’s walk outside buddy, I need to stretch my legs.”

We circled the building while Josh talked. My heart was so full, hearing about everything in his life, seeing how he’s growing up and becoming more sure-footed, less afraid.

“I have to tell you something Miss Angel, and don’t tell Grandmother.”

I sighed.

“Josh, if it’s illegal or about suicide talk, don’t tell me, because you know I’ll have to tell her.”

He laughed.

“Miss Angel, I never ever think about that anymore! No, this is a good thing. My dad got a good job and him and his wife got custody of Patrick.”

Patrick is his twelve year old stepbrother.

“When school’s out I’m going to move back with Dad and Megan so I can help Patrick get used to being back in North Carolina.”

(The stepmother lost custody of Patrick when he was about 8 because of a drug conviction.)

“Miss Angel, I want to give my dad another chance. And I just love that little fella, Patrick. He’s in my heart. I know he needs me.”

At that moment, God gave me a glimpse of the young man that Josh was growing into. I was as proud of him as I would have been my own child.

“And Miss Angel, I miss being in a family.”

I took of my sunglasses as we headed back in the building.

“She’s going to be proud of you buddy.”

His grandmother Katherine was waiting in my office, her face beaming.

“Josh, your dad called. He says y’all talked about it and you’re moving back back home. I’m so proud of you both!”

I quietly closed my office door and left the two of them in a tearful embrace.

Happy tears, but I could see the memory of pain on both their faces.

Because Josh still misses her.

He always will.

It was his 83rd birthday, but he gave me the gift

I don’t deserve the life I have, I’ll tell you that upfront.

My beloved Mr. Conrad Acorn celebrated his 83rd birthday with me Tuesday. He’s the volunteer art teacher at the facility I direct and he is truly one of my life’s most interesting and endearing characters.

I went all out for him, for this birthday.

I can often be oblivious to the needs of others but somehow I knew in my heart that recognizing his special day would mean the world to him.

And it did.

I’d managed to keep the party a secret and find the most elaborate chocolate cake you can imagine.

I came in early to decorate and everything looked so festive.

So he of course cried. Then I did too, because I just love him so much.

After the party wound down he asked me to grab a bag he’d stored in his locker.

I noticed him walking in with with a Chico’s bag but I didn’t pay too much attention. He’s always shuffling supplies back and forth.

My intern Destiny grabbed the bag and handed it to me.

“To Angel: Thank you for everything.”

Inside was a beautiful leather purse to which he’d attached three charms.

I was shocked.

1. I adore leather purses but I never purchase them because I always think the money could be better spent on someone else.

2. I love charms. I just do. Of course, I never buy any and in fact don’t own a single one. Until now.

He took one look at the expression on my face and rolled his eyes. I started to protest and he gave me his fiercest stare.

“Don’t even start. I had no ideal you were throwing me a party. This isn’t because of that. You need a good leather purse for your trip.”

(I’m speaking at a conference in a neighboring city in April.)

He continued, “If you’re going to represent us, I want you to look nice.”

I thanked him over and over again. Until he gave me “that look” and said, “If you don’t stop I’m going to take it back.”

I leaned over and kissed him on the cheek and whispered one last thank you.

“You’re welcome my dear.”

It’s very hard for me to accept gifts. I’ve hardened everyone in my life to this and it’s been that way for years. I very rarely ever receive a gift.

That’s one thing my late friend Doug always fussed at me about. I have a hard time ever thinking I deserve anything at all, especially gifts.

I don’t think I deserve the gift I received from Mr. Acorn.

But for some reason this is different. It made me happy instead of guilty.

It wasn’t because it’s an expensive leather purse.

It’s because I know he is saying, “I care.”

And THAT means the world to me.

Punch me down

Punch me down
I’m your pillow
Reaching, softly changing
Myself to the shape of you

Fall on me
My care the bed
You trust and collapse to
Believing I’m there, never doubting

Ignore me
The soft and faded blanket
Waiting in silence to cover you
Unseen upon the chair

Take from me
That which I loved
So bittersweetly I return
The thing you never really gave

Forget me
As one does useless items
Taking them for granted
Only to discard

Leave me
Because I’m the one
Of no worth here
Never mattered, it’s so clear

See me
The first time, in goodbye
For I was more
Than you ever really knew

Feel me
Soft for you, always pleasing
Then hurt, but  strong
Now only leaving, now only gone

Doug is fading fast, so I reached out to his mistress

Oh. You thought I was Doug’s mistress?

I’m the one who said no. I did care about him though.

Part of that care found me leaving his house Wednesday and stopping at the Walgreens on the corner to try and contact the other woman.

Yes he is married. I’m not defending what they did. I didn’t like her one bit and she was truly (mostly) bad for him.

But he asked me to “tell her.”

I knew what he meant.

I also knew (but hated to admit) that she brought him joy in those weeks between his cancer treatments.

He buried his reality and traveled through several states and into Canada with her. They stopped at every river they crossed and took selfies, lighting up their individual Instagrams like the 4th of July.

She was young and alive with love for him. He was staring down both barrels of death.

It was probably easy to rationalize their affair by believing that what the wife didn’t know wouldn’t hurt her.

I’m not excusing what they did. But a part of me understands it.

~~~

I was also motivated to contact the mistress in order to protect Julie, Doug’s wife.

Monday was the last day Doug was able to use his phone and I’d noticed that Julie had it charging next to her chair Wednesday.

I didn’t think she deserved to inadvertently receive any frantic messages from women she has no idea Doug even knew.

~~~

It was still hard though. I sat a few minutes biting my lip and taking deep breaths.

Then I hear Asa’s voice, like a little Jewish conscience in my heart.

And from somewhere in me came compassion for the mistress.

She has no way of knowing what’s going on, if Doug is alive or dead.

Whatever I thought about the situation, (I hated it) and whatever I thought about her personally, (jealousy mixed with disgust), I knew I had to reach out to her for all of the above reasons.

So I contacted the mistress.

Since she had followed me on Twitter several months ago I followed her back and sent a DM.

“Nancy, it’s Angel. I just left Doug’s house. My number is 867-5309 if you want to call.”

My phone rang before I could even put my car in reverse.

“Is he dead?” she blurted out. Then she burst into tears.

To be continued…

[I’m not a hero here…I was tempted to do what she did. I just didn’t do it.]

Got a wife and kids in Baltimore, Jack
I went out for a ride and I never went back

Like a river that don’t know where it’s flowing
I took a wrong turn and I just kept going

Everybody’s got a hungry heart
Everybody’s got a hungry heart
Lay down your money and you play your part
Everybody’s got a hungry heart

I met her in a Kingstown bar
We fell in love I knew it had to end
We took what we had and we ripped it apart
Now here I am down in Kingstown again

Everybody’s got a hungry heart
Everybody’s got a hungry heart
Lay down your money and you play your part
Everybody’s got a hungry heart

Everybody needs a place to rest
Everybody wants to have a home
Don’t make no difference what nobody says
Ain’t nobody like to be alone

Everybody’s got a hungry heart
Everybody’s got a hungry heart
Lay down your money and you play your part
Everybody’s got a hungry heart

“Goodbye sweetheart”

When I left Doug’s house Wednesday, I wondered if this would be the last time I’d see him.

It surprised me to realize I carried peace either way.

~~~

He was asleep most of the visit, but I asked his wife Julie if I could wake him up to say goodbye.

“Please do. He might wake up and know you, he might not,” she warned me.

I stopped at his hospital bed that was delivered a few days ago from hospice and touched his shoulder.

“Doug, buddy, it’s me…”

His eyes flew open and he grabbed my hand.

“Angel, Angel.”

I was so elated. I turned around to look at Julie and said, “He knows me!”

He started talking right away, rushing through the words.

“Albert’s grave. Teach Justin.”

Albert is his friend that the major publishing event revolved around. Doug always took care of his grave but his stepchildren are not interested in continuing this.

Justin is my 12 year old son.

“I will Doug, I promise. We’ve already been twice this year.”

Doug’s nose was bleeding, I’m assuming from the cancer? I grabbed a tissue and cleaned his face.

He started crying and said, “I’m afraid Angel.”

“You’re doing good buddy, you’re strong, you’re hands are strong!”

But he was afraid, and very sorrowful. I could see this in his eyes and it broke my heart.

“Doug, let’s pray.”

I put my other hand on his chest and bowed my head. (Details omitted because, well, it’s too private.)

When I finished he didn’t let go of my hands, so I was still bent over somewhat.

“Tell her, please tell her,” he whispered. “Tell them all.”

I knew that he meant his mistress in Vermont and all of the friends he’s made in the town I work for.

“I will Doug, I’ll tell everyone. We all love you and we’re praying for you.”

He kept holding my hands but stopped talking. I thought maybe he was falling back asleep so I gently tried to pull away.

“No, don’t go.”

So I stood there, just looking at his face, so sweet to me now, and again, after so much anger, bitterness, and anguish between us.

I realized then that our reconciliation was possible and accomplished because of him. Because he reached out to me, and came to my work to ask me to forgive him.

Gratitude filled my heart. God was so good to me to allow this peace at our end.

~~~

I could tell Doug was going in and out from the Fentanyl but he stirred and opened his eyes again.

He brought my right hand to his lips and kissed it.

“Goodbye sweetheart.”

I leaned over and hugged him.

“Goodbye buddy.”

Boulder to Birmingham

Well you really got me this time
And the hardest part is knowing I’ll survive

I’ve come to listen for the sound
Of the trucks as they move down
Out on 95
And pretend that it’s the ocean


Coming down to wash me clean, to wash me clean
Baby, do you know what I mean?

I would rock my soul in the bosom of Abraham
I would hold my life in his saving grace
I would walk all the way from Boulder to Birmingham
If I thought I could see, I could see your face
If I thought I could see, I could see your face

Boulder to Birmingham is a track from the 1975 album Pieces of the Sky by Emmylou Harris. The song was written by Harris and Bill Danoff. It has served as something of a signature tune for the artist and recounts her feelings of grief in the years following the death of country rock star and mentor Gram Parsons.

Wiki

It crashes over me. Then he says, “Forgive yourself”

From the archives. Wow. So much change.

All the pain of the past year crashed over me today and tonight. I realized that Doug didn’t really want to be friends again, no matter what he said. He was just manipulating me to insure I delivered on the professional services I’ve provided the past two weeks.

Around 1:00 pm I just couldn’t deal with knowing that any longer, so I went to bed and stayed there until after 7:00 pm. Any work I had to do, I did from my phone. (Thank you Steve Jobs.) Lights off, curtains drawn. Pretending to be asleep.

I felt so sorry for myself. I cried off an on all day. Boo hoo. I hate myself for doing that.

IF I WOULD LEARN TO KEEP THE WALLS UP WHERE DOUG IS CONCERNED HE WOULDN’T BE ABLE TO HURT ME OVER AND OVER AGAIN. But yeah, I’m a slow learner.

What a pity party. And I don’t like self-pity. Why am I living there then?

Then a post popped into my inbox that pricked my heart so deeply: Continue reading “It crashes over me. Then he says, “Forgive yourself””

“Have you written about me having a girlfriend now?”

Adam called tonight. Of course I’m happy about that.

I’ve never yet had a conversation with him that didn’t bless me in some way, or drive me to think. (Usually both.)

I also love talking to him in general because he has this lyrical way of describing people and events in his life.

He observes deeply, then paints a vivid picture with words. I close my eyes while he speaks and I’m where he is, if only for a moment.

We talk on his drive home across his frozen city, so I’m still on the phone when he checks his mail.

I’d sent him a can-opener and the package arrived today.

I didn’t have time to write a note but instead printed a post from the blog that was about him.

He opened the package and started to read the blog post to me, as if it were a letter.

‘Oh, you don’t have to do that, it’s just a blog post.’

He teases me.

“Beloved Adam.”

‘I don’t say that! I’ve never said that!’

“Adam Darling.”

‘I give. I do say that.’

He laughs and continues to make up endearing salutations.

“Angel, have you written about me having a girlfriend yet?”

I stumble in answering.

‘I think I’ve mentioned it, but I might have put the post in draft form when I unpublished every thing.’

Adam has a girlfriend now, which seems so beautiful, yet somehow very private and I’m not sure how to write about it.

I quickly try and excuse myself by reminding him of my policy of not prying.

‘You know I never question you and only wait for you to tell me things. Since the trip to see her, you’ve only mentioned her a few times.’

I don’t mention the heated phone conversation when I agreed with his mom and my tone of voice makes it sound like I deserve an award for not prying.

But I don’t.

Because I have written about Adam having a girlfriend. I’ve just not published those posts.

I do not tell him this. Because the posts are mostly about me.

How I’m adjusting to him not needing me anymore.

How sometimes it hurts when I miss him.

How long the days seem when several pass without hearing from him.

How I worry about him driving on the ice and how would I know if something happened to him?

But also…

How I’m reminding myself that I’ve always prayed for someone to love him.

And how much he blessed my life by being kind to me, and extending the hand of friendship. Over and over again.

How he looked past the situation I was in and saw who I could be.

And how he walked with me, out of the darkness, into the light.

But most of all, how I’m so thankful that God crossed our paths, for such a time as this, for however long it shall be.

It is well, with my soul.

Oh Lord, you’re beautiful,
Your face is all I see,
For when your eyes are on this child
Your grace abounds to me

I want to take your word and shine it all around
But first help me to just, live it Lord

And when I’m doing well, help me to never seek a crown
For my reward is giving glory to you

Oh Lord, please light the fire
That once burned bright and clean
Replace the lamp of my first love
That burns with holy fear

Oh Lord, you’re beautiful
Your face is all I see
For when your eyes are on this child

Your grace is all I see

Will the circle be unbroken?

Adam called me tonight and his voice seemed heavier, older.

As if now he is the father and I am the child.

He has grown up so much this past year, and indeed he’s taken this role more often than not.

(When he takes a role at all that is.)

Angel, It seems as if the circle is closing.

Which circle? You and I?

Yes.”

Closing as in ending?

Yes.”

Don’t say that.

“I know you are crying. Don’t have those tears in your eyes.”

I don’t.

You do, I know you do.”

Yes. Ok, I do.

It’s just that I feel like a different person from a year ago. I don’t even recognize me, as her.

That’s because you are different, you’re not her anymore.”

Thank you for helping me, for all that you did. But I don’t want our friendship to be over.

Stop crying. I meant that the circle of the year, and the events that caused our paths to cross, that circle is closing.”

He says this I realize, because I messaged him that Doug called and asked me to come see him this afternoon.

I told him that Doug can no longer stand. He just wanted me to sit by his bed and tell him funny work stories.

I took food, cake, fudge, just treats I knew they’d love, including Starbucks.

Dinner, so Doug’s wife could have a break.

She asked me to help with Doug’s birthday party. Of course I will. I’m good at being a background utility player.

Adam, I say, I’m so thankful to God that nothing happened between Doug and I. That I can walk in his house without shame. That I can sincerely love his wife.

Adam, I’ll call you back in a few minutes, I need to pay for this can-opener.

That’s fine.

Except I don’t call him right back. I go into another store to buy him some Band-Aids to drop in the mail. Adam cut his finger on a can and I’m worried that he doesn’t have bandages.

I gather myself and stop crying as well.

I made it to the car and reached for my phone. I stare at the number. But I can’t make myself call him.

In the past eleven months, I’ve never called Adam.

I’ve always thought that I should be there for him if he needs me, (and I am), but I should never call him.

So I never have.

I closed the phone option and message instead.

Adam, call me if you want. I’m finished at the store.

Angel, I want to take a little break. We might need to push it to tomorrow.

Okay buddy, no problem. TTYL.

The circle indeed closes.

Angel

So I close my eyes softly,
’till I become that part of the wind
That we all long for sometime.

And to those that I love, like a ghost through a fog
Like a charmed hour and a haunted song
And the angel, angel of my dreams

Angel of my dreams

I still look up
I try hard not to look up, yeah
That girl was me, yeah

No great pretender…

My Favorite Boy

He’s still little, Aidan is. Six years old and only started kindergarten in September.

We bonded over the summer when I introduced butcher paper and bright markers into his world.

He drew towns and cities and worlds for hours on end. Cars, ships and houses.

“Draw your house here Midth Angel.”

He didn’t talk much then, and still has a hard time with words. But he can draw, and tells complex stories with his drawings.

Dith is me and MidulAngelo. He prodects me at home. We met on de Ditantic and daved people.

[Met on the Titanic.]

Aidan loves me. I know that he does and I don’t know why. I love him right back.

When his family of five arrives at my facility he he’s always the first in the door. I see him before he sees me and I don’t deserve the look on his face as he scans the room to find me.

He runs to me like a whirling dervish, yelling “Hey, Hey!”

Heads turn at the noise of him, but I don’t shush him. Not this golden child.

Hands out for a happy high-five, I say, “hey buddy, how are you?”

As is with most kids, the niceties are lost on him and he launches right into what he wants to talk about.

Something something, we saw it! Indiscernible and dis is Baby Groot.”

Brushing dark hair out of his big brown eyes, he looks up at me with complete trust. Plastic Baby Groot is offered with outstretched hands.

“Tee him!”

Oh sweet little one. Did you know that I can’t always understand what you say? Is that why you started bringing the Target ads, to show me your favorite super heroes?

Dis is de Iwon Man Wego but Twny Start is not weally in dere-a-uh.

(In Aidan’s vocabulary, some words at the end of a sentence have two and often three sing-song syllables.)

You funny little fella. You roll your eyes at me when I tell you I’ve never seen the movies you bring and place in my lap.

The Avengers. Guardians of the Galaxy. Captain America. Thor.

“My sons have seen them though,” I say.

“Ou can’t have doose boys. I’m woure boy,” he proclaims, pointing at his chest.

Wake the deal-uh,” Aidan insists, holding out his hand to shake on it.

“Ok buddy, you can be my boy while you’re here today.”

Then for the briefest of moments I allow myself to remember another boy who was mine for a day. The newborn son who lies in a cold grave near his grandparents, his birth and death dates the same.

It seems forever ago, but it wasn’t. It’s just that the girl I used to be was also buried that day.

“Would my son have been like Aidan? Overjoyed with the smallest of attentions? Elated with a big empty piece of paper onto which he could draw his own universe?”

“Is he mad at me that he died? Does he think it was my fault? Does he love me?”

“Does he know that I was so young and afraid? That I thought the doctors knew best when they sent me home that night?”

“Who would he be now?”

I still ask those things, the questions without answers. This side of Heaven, I’ll never know.

I do know this though, grief paralyzed me after he died. Then shame strangled me.

“Her baby died. I’m not sure what happened. But she’s not even taking care of her two-year old. Her younger sister comes every day and stays there most nights.”

The gossip was right. I didn’t take care of anyone then, not even myself.

All I did was lay in bed and relive over and over not fighting back when the doctor said, “Oh you aren’t in labor. It’s too early. Go home and rest.”

I relived giving birth with just my husband in the room, him screaming for help when I told him what was happening.

Relived how peaceful it felt when the baby moved against my legs and I thought for a few seconds that he might not die.

The flashbacks of holding him never stopped. He struggled to breathe, before they took him to “see if there was anything that could be done for him.”

“He’s little though. Don’t expect a miracle.”

But the worst thing was constantly reliving my sister entering the room 45 minutes later, holding the baby.

“I found him next to the sink, on the counter. They said he died and nothing could be done. They were waiting for the doctor to finish stitching you up before they brought him back. But he’s moving. He’s not dead.”

I relived reaching out for the baby. His chest slowly rising and falling. Then faster frantic breaths, his tiny fingers jerkily grasping, his head moving from side to side as he fought for air.

My husband screaming again at the call button speaker.

Then, the baby just didn’t take another breath. I relived the deathly silence. Over and over again.

For months afterward I stayed in my dark bedroom clutching the blanket he was wrapped in, my wet tears mingling with tiny drops of dried blood. (My blood, not his. He was perfect.)

One day my two-year old son came in and patted me on the cheek. Silently, he touched my face. Sweet little fingers tried to gently pry open my eyes.

“Mommy get up. Mommy come back. Mommy come play.”

So I did.

The empty shell of me tried to live a semblance of a life. I mostly failed. But I was up walking around and to everyone in my life, that seemed to be a huge improvement.

I prayed for months after my son died, that God would give me a dream of the baby.

I so desperately needed to see him somewhere besides that tiny casket. Somewhere besides being lowered into the hard red dirt.

Over a year later God answered that prayer.

I dreamed I was in church when a laughing toddler with wavy dark hair and big brown eyes peaked over the pew in front of me. His chubby little arms stretched towards me, smiles wreathing his face.

I reached for him but before I could hold him, the dream ended. I awoke with full knowledge and memory of my baby as I saw him, his soul alive.

I started the long journey of healing at that moment in time. Bitterness of soul lingered, but my wavering faith was completely replaced with sure knowledge that I will hold my son again one day.

I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.”
~2 Samuel 12:23

As I settle in to draw with Aidan and his brother Cody, the journey of healing continues.

One tear slides down my cheek onto the three feet of butcher paper.

I’m surprised by this. I don’t often cry for my baby anymore.

Aidan notices. “Don’t cry Midth Angel. Whass wong-uh?

“I think it’s just dust in my eye. I’m ok. Tell me what you want our zoo to look like. Where shall we put the tigers?”

Aidan roars at me, curling his fingers like claws. “Draw them here, in front of me,” he says with a pretend tiger-ish growl.”

So I do.

In the end I decide, “maybe I’m just crying for all the boys.”

The ones taken, and the ones given.

“The LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.”

Dear son, we’ve been waiting for you
Thrilled beside ourselves that you’ve arrived
White coats came in, heads held low
Talked for a bit, shuffled outside

We closed the curtains
And held each other
And cried
We said hello
At the same time
That we said goodbye

And smallest and wingless
Leaving as soon as you’d arrived
But sadness is just love wasted
With no little heart to place it inside

We closed the curtains
And held each other
And cried
We said hello
At the same time
That we said goodbye