"Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to let you in."

-- Robert Frost

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

thin places

I didn't know what I was in for with the birth of my first baby. Oh, I thought I knew. I took a Bradley method class promoting natural childbirth and all it's benefits. I could do this. I was strong and I was determined. Then twelve hours of intense back labor likened to a baseball bat strike across my lower spine and zero progression of a baby turned wrong, crushed me into a heap of painful surrender.

Miraculously, not long after, I sat holding the most incredible creation. Her perfection left me speechless and marveling. Perfect fingers and toes with miniature nails. Fully functional systems. Eyes widely observant. Instincts to seek nourishment and renewal. There had been some kind of discomfort in getting here ... to this moment ... but where was it now? I couldn't remember. That minute was gone, replaced only by this one.

Lost somewhere in a left behind fog, the beauty of this  thinned the air and the distance between heaven and earth was suddenly not so looming.

I stood in a hospital on a foreign continent. Families huddled together on the grounds waiting to hear word of their ailing loved ones. Grey concrete walls protected those inside from the elements and little else. Beds lay side by side and end to end in wide open spaces. A shared bathroom cubical in the far off distance. Too many in need and not enough hands.

A maternity ward is a happy place. Life and the promise of a new day. But this one reeked of desperation and a grasp at shreds of hope. Mothers lined the walls whose unfortunate circumstances necessitated neonatal hospital care to that of the loving comfort of village women in an at-home setting. Most of them, the common age of my own two daughters and the assisting nurses similarly so.

No hospice care and limited space, these young mothers hovered over infant beds shared by multiple tiny bodies struggling to cling to that eternal light newly confined to an earthly and rapidly failing residence. Their inadequate size screamed an alert to the story's inevitable ending.

A proficient nurse lifted a frail fame from one bed to another. "Failure to thrive," she stated to the caregiver on her side and both turned their attention to the next miniature mortal. The eyes of their profession dimmed even more.

I noted a mother of very youthful age leaning protectively over a corner bassinet, the fortune to be hers and hers alone. She wiped with a semi clean rag at the residue of birth adhering to papery flesh of her pint-size, little person. Then I felt it. The air grew thin.

I'd been her. A lone mother-to-be standing in a doctor's office. Wishing ... willing .... wanting someone ... anyone ... to give me a differing verdict. I would give anything to hand her that. No money in my pocket would ever make this better. No thing on my person could take away her fear.

The pointed beauty stuck my heart near to buckling my knees beneath me. Thank God for a God who will make all of this hurt right.

My feet shuffled forward without my knowledge and I gently touched her arm. "Hello," I said. "Is this your baby?" and she nodded with dulled countenance and premature wear.

"Boy or girl?" I asked.

Her gaze shifted and a little life flashed across the darkness. "Girl."

"What will you name her?" I countered, not letting her go so quickly.

Her smile lit briefly as she pronounced a name.

I marveled with her at the infant's petite perfection. Fingers, toes, lips and nose.

"I love her name. Do you think she looks like you? Does she look like your mother or your father at all?" I grasped, holding on. Standing in the thinness of air left me lightheaded with the perfection of an eternal plan and the reality of the only gift within my mortal bounds.

"Her eyes are like my mothers. And her father's ears stick out just so." she beamed with pride in her accomplishment as her gaze stared directly into mine.

Uninvited, I put my arm around her sagging shoulders and drawing her close, whispered near to her ear, "She is perfect and is so lucky to have you as her mother always." I let go earlier than she was ready and her arms stayed around me a few seconds longer. She locked eyes with mine, their light returning.

"You are a beautiful mother and today is her day. I'll bet you love her so much." My hand touched her young cheek.

Nodding her head and with a moment's contented breath, she turned back to her hovering attentions and I moved down a florescent corridor struggling for my own as the gulf between heaven and earth widened once again.

Thin places exist amidst life's rubble every day.

A smile, a laugh, a present conversation.

Simple play.

The beauty of a mother's care.

The creation of home and family.

A hand, a touch.

And a new mother's brief exchange with an ending unknown, would forever leave in its wake a desire to replace all that is hard and barbed with the beauty of daily sought after thin places.

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