I was deeply blessed to be able to spend long and precious hours alone with my son during those hospital days.
I was able to talk to him at great length. About so many different things. The most remarkable thing (and I told him this!) was that he wasn’t able to talk back. That’s only funny because I think every Momma wants to be able to tell their child deep and profound things without them grimacing, or answering with a smart aleck come back, or argue anything that’s said. My son being a grown man didn’t often rebut me when I loved on him. Yet, I knew that there were times that he thought I was pouring the love on a little too thick. We so very often throughout the years said “I love you” without embarrassment and with great abandon. I am so deeply grateful for that.
During those hospital days, I spent the first nights propping myself up in a horribly uncomfortable corner chair with a few blankets and a pillow or two. I could not leave his side. The ICU is a busy place and the night hours are no exception. Many a nurse, a respiratory therapist, an aide…many came in to tend to my son and care for each and every need.
One particular night, I was in that corner chair trying to find sleep. It must have been real early in the morning. I know it was after midnight.
The angle of my chair was such that the machine for his cooling blanket (he kept running a fever and they did everything they could to bring that down) was strategically placed so that I could not see but his head, his chest, his calves, his feet. I could open my eyes and see his face…watch expectantly thinking he would wake up and say something incredibly ridiculous or even simply, “Hello, Mom”.
Those were the initial days of hope.
I was roused by a voice talking softly, yet directly, calling my son’s name…narrating some kind of procedure.
I opened my eyes to see three caring and loving people standing around my son’s bed. Two nurses…both I learned to love and cherish over the days…one at the foot of Mike’s bed, the other, her back to me.
Standing opposite me on the far side of Mike’s bed was a tall, big and burly Aide by the name of Brian. A strong, capable black man with a steady, matter of fact, but kind voice. He often came into the room to take Mike’s temperature or to test his blood sugar level and I had often thought he was a sad man. Lonely. Someone who really didn’t like his job a whole lot…but was there to get the job done. I rarely saw him smile, or interact with the other staff. He wasn’t an angry or rude person…he simply was.
But this night I was awakened to his voice calling out almost lovingly to my son:
“Hey, My Friend. Now…I’m going to turn you to the side. Easy does it!”
“Michael, My Friend…I am going to move your trach a bit. That’s it…hang in there for a moment.”
“My Friend. I’m going to lift your leg now. We’re almost done. You’re doing amazing.”
As I watched, I saw these three beautiful caregivers with tremendously meticulous care give my son a bath. Talking him through as they knew he could hear…assuring him that he was considered alive. Well. Hearing and understanding.
I could see Mike’s head, his shoulders, his legs…and I watched as my huge, once completely capable, brute of a son was moved gently and washed lovingly. His head was moved from side to side. His arms were lifted with the greatest of care. He was tenderly rolled to one side and then the other.
His face washed.
His hair washed.
My boy looked so vulnerable. So small. So trusting and so exposed. Completely naked and wide open.
Baptized in some of the most loving and tender gestures I have ever witnessed.
And I was overwhelmed with the vivid memory of giving Michael his very first bath. How that was such a big deal to me. How I felt so afraid and so inadequate. Yet, my sweet, small baby of a son was ever so trusting.
I felt the tears roll. I know I must have cried out because the sweet nurse at the foot of the bed came to my side and took my hand. Bent down to hug me and softly rubbed my hand between hers. She was so gracious, so tender toward me.
The other two looked over at me with such love and kindness. They continued on and allowed me to quietly sob.
When they finished, they opened the curtain and walked toward the door. Drew the curtain back to give us privacy.
I felt myself immediately get up from my chair and walk toward them. I needed to thank them. To hug their necks and tell them how much I appreciated them.
I opened the curtain to find one of the nurses standing with tears streaming down her face….”I am so sorry that hurt you,” she said so lovingly. “I know that must have hurt you”.
I put my arms around her and told her how much I appreciated her and that her loving care was priceless to me.
And how bittersweet the experience was for me. A beautiful and tender moment to take with me always.
I looked for the Aide. That wonderful, sweet, giant of a man with the job of a Saint. Yet he wasn’t there. I knew I would have to find him and thank him. I could not rest until I did.
Some time later he did come to replenish some supplies and I went to him. Put my hand on his huge arm, gave it a squeeze, and told him the best I could how much I appreciated his attention…his care…his respect and honor for my son and for doing something so menial with such great dignity.
“You’re welcome,” he said, “I’m just doing my job, ma’am”
I felt an overwhelm of deep love for him.
“No,” I replied. “More. So much more!” And looking into his eyes he understood. A flash of profound recognition and a bond to last forever formed in that one, small, and brief lock of eyes.
“Yes,” he said quietly. “Yes.”
I then stood on my toes and kissed his face. I know that must have taken him back some but he hugged me…offering a shy smile.
With a sweet and tender return he asked if he could bring me anything…did I need anything?
No. Except maybe a miracle.
Like so many others I would ask over the days, he replied softly that if he could he surely would. Yes. He’d do that for me. If only he could.
I told him I would never forget him as long as I live. Ever.
What precious, precious encounter! How deeply loved and ministered to I was! I was served by the hands of everyday work…everyday love. The enormity was not lost on me. I completely understood.
God came down. In the most simple and yet profound of ways. God came near. Through the hands and attention of one thought to be low on the pay scale. An Aide. A servant. With a servant’s heart.
As I sat down to rest I was overwhelmed that my life with Michael had come full circle. How he was once laid into my arms as vulnerable and how he now laid before me the same.
And how after all these years later I still feel so inadequate.
And so afraid.
And my son — all grown with life behind him lived — laid there still so trusting.