It was Valentine’s Day. Mario and I had a nurse scheduled to be with Reese, and he and I were going to go out for a lover's breakfast. Ha ha. Just kidding, I hate that word, "lover." But we ended up in the Emergency Room. Reese was diagnosed with pneumonia. We looked at each other with that familiar disappointment. Our plans changed suddenly by our little, fragile one.
We chatted with our nurse. “These weren’t our original Valentine’s plans.”
She responded, “You are here because you love her. And that’s what Valentine’s Day is all about.”
Yeah, girl. Yeah. I loved that she said that. I felt seen.
Before we left that day, she said, “I can tell you guys take great care of her.”
We felt seen. In fact, that is one of the most meaningful compliments I can receive. I’m not exactly sure why. Maybe a psychologist can answer that. It’s not the same as, “You’re a great mom.” It’s deeper. It’s a phrase that implies, I see you. I see the work you are doing and it matters, mom. I dunno. It feels really good to me.
We ended up in the ER again with Reese 5 days later. She seemed to take a step backward in her recovery. It was also Olivia’s 13th birthday, so I tried to convince myself it would be a quick stop and we would be home to celebrate in a hurry. Our nurse on this day commented on how siblings of kids like Reese learn to be very others-centered because of circumstances like this. Thanks for seeing Olivia.
We ended up staying for 8 hours. Weekends in the ER seem to move a little slower. Our room was situated right by the parking lot, where the ambulances pulled up and unloaded children. I tried not look. But I did notice that a Sheriff’s vehicle sat outside our window with its lights flashing. Two things I’ve learned over the years: Pediatric ER nurses are some of my favorite people and the ER can be a scene for drama. As we were packing up to leave, I asked the nurse about the Sheriff. She closed the door and told me in a hushed tone, “We had a drowning today.”
My heart dropped. I caught my breath. We walked toward the exit of the Emergency Room, and we passed the family being escorted in by two security guards. The woman who I assumed was the mom was still in her pajamas and her face told the story. The extended family surrounded her. One of the men locked eyes with me. I gave the smallest smile I could give in an effort to say, “I see you.” He then looked at Reese longer than a moment. In my mind, I imagined he was thinking, it’s not fair that you get to leave.
It’s taken me several days to be able to talk about this. In some way I felt like I was a part of their story. We were there. We were there when he arrived. We were there when he was pronounced dead. We were there as the family was being escorted in. We exchanged glances. It hurt to be a part of their story.
I think one of the hardest parts of being in a crisis is seeing the rest of the world carrying on while you are screaming, and feeling as if nobody can hear you. I remember the days after Reese was diagnosed with Aicardi Syndrome, seeing kids riding bikes and playing and people smiling and taking out the trash. I wanted the world to stop for a moment, but it wouldn’t.
People need to be seen. People need more love. There is always room for more of that. Pick your head up and look around. Who needs to be seen and acknowledged and loved a little more? There are probably people in my life right now who are screaming to be seen. I’m asking God to show me who they are. And to have enough care and love to do something about it.
One family walking out the door to go celebrate a birthday while another walked in to see their child for the last time. These are the things that are so hard for me to reconcile, and the only answer I hear from God is this: LOVE MORE. It’s actually the answer to almost everything. More love. And then a little more. I will probably never see this family again. But I can pray for them. And I can remember them, remember their faces, and allow them to soften my heart toward others who need more love, need a word of encouragement, need people who care, who need to be seen.