Thursday, October 21, 2010

In the Shadow of the Polka-Dotted Nightlight

I held my baby (can I still call her that at three?) in the dim glow of her nightlight tonight, waiting for the medicinal mist to work its magic on her lungs.  The shallow cough has been hovering for a day or two, and then the tell-tale rattling began this afternoon.

Unfortunately, Abby now realizes the inconvenience of the nebulizer.  She protested both treatments earlier today, whereas before she simply resigned herself to this fact of life.  After all, this machine has coexisted with her since she was nine months old.

When I went in to treat her late tonight, I mistakenly thought she would snuggle into my arms and accept the nebulizer without protest since I had to lift her out of a sound sleep to rest upright on my lap.  But even in her sleepy stupor, she cried, "I dohn wahn-uh do dat.  I dohn wahn iht," clearly communicating her strong opposition.  I don't blame her, but I also know her body needs this help, so I braced us both and continued.

When she realized the situation was not negotiable, she gave up her fight and resumed her slumber in my arms.  We sat together for several minutes: me leaning against her bed; her leaning against me--body still and heavy, eyes closed.   I held her largely to keep her positioned properly for the meds, but also to feel the weight of her, to see that she still fits on my lap though her legs spill far over where they used to fit neatly, to enjoy her presence while it's still mine to enjoy, to will my love out of my heart--out of my very being--and into her still small but ever-growing body.

These late-night moments with Abby and the nebulizer have always been sweet because she's always accepted them with peace and a seeming awareness that this is what had to be done.  We've passed these stolen minutes in mutual reverie, savoring the snuggly togetherness.  It was painful tonight to share this closeness against her will, to insist upon her rest in my arms.  I felt a twinge of sadness at her attempt to squirm away.

But this is my job: to have arms strong enough to contain any protest or rebellion or railing against her best interest.  And it is a sacred job.  I know her lungs need the freedom to expand and fill.  I know her body needs to be able to breathe.  She sees sacrifice.  I see life.  I see it on her behalf.

There is divinity in it, I think, to sit on the omniscient side of another's pain, to recognize the profound disappointment and frustration of one I would die for and yet to will it anyway for her benefit, so that she might live life to the fullest.  All of it--every intention and motivation and action--is wrapped up in love.  Deep, unstoppable love.  Love that is willing to insist in spite of herself.

Equally spiritual is her willingness to submit, to surrender her will to mine--trusting that I know, or at the very least, trusting that I love.

I held my Abby tonight, though she would have preferred I left her sleeping, and I learned something about our Father in heaven who loves perfectly and wills all things for our good.  I pray that I will have the faith to surrender even when I feel like going back to bed.  And I pray someday that Abby will see and understand why I held her tight so the vapor could reach her lungs in spite of her sorrow.  It's so she could breathe.  And live.

It shouldn't surprise me anymore when I find myself on holy ground in the most everyday places, but it still does: burning bushes, baby's breaths, my daughter's room in the shadow of her polka-dotted nightlight...

All hallowed by Love.  

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