Pain is an inevitable part of life but it usually comes in small dosages across our life span. I have been consumed by pain for the past week of my life. This pain has been constant and all consuming. I thought that the news we received about Nina last Thursday was the most painful experience of my life. But the pain I lived when our son, Teddy, found out that his sister is extremely sick practically destroyed me.
Immediately after we found out, Todd and I decided that we would follow Teddy's lead and answer his questions honestly and thoughtfully. Teddy's biggest fear in life was that we would die. We were beyond worried about how this would shape and impact our anxious boy. We prayed for wisdom and guidance, but nothing could have prepared us for what transpired.
When we returned to Santa Barbara from Cedars on Saturday the 21st, Teddy was his usual happy self riding his bike and playing with our neighbors, Katie and Cami. That night he was so busy that he didn't spend much time with Nina. By Sunday afternoon, he had noticed how fatigued she was. That evening when we were sitting on the couch relaxing, he asked if Nina was sick and I replied yes. He then added that he didn't want to share his applesauce with her because he didn't want to catch her germs. I explained that he couldn't get sick from her and he ended the conversation.
On Monday morning the 22nd as we were getting ready for school, he asked where Nina was. I explained that she wasn't going to school because she was sick. He asked if she would go the next day and I said I didn't know. Later that evening he and Todd read a book together. During prayer, he spontaneously asked God to help Nina feel better. After he said amen, he turned to Todd and asked him if Nina would be normal again. Todd said he didn't know. This made Teddy panic and he frantically asked why didn't he know. Todd beautifully replied that the doctors were trying to help. Teddy started to cry and said he was worried about his sister. Tod's heart as a father never shined more. He turned to Teddy, hugged him and said it was okay to be worried. They cuddled and our son finally fell asleep.
Tuesday came and went without much discussion. At this point, Nina was back in the hospital because she was dehydrated. Thank goodness for childhood activity. Teddy was so excited to be playing with his friends and new motorcycle that he didn't inquire about Nina until bedtime. I explained that Nina was with Eileen (but decided to omit at the hospital part since it was bedtime; we would cross that bridge tomorrow). He complained that it wasn't fair that she got to stay up late and he need to go to bed early. Oh the innocence of childhood!
On Wednesday afternoon, I picked up Teddy from school. As we drove he told me how he liked his 2nd grade teacher but quipped about how many worksheets they had to do on a daily basis. He then turned to me, with those stunning blue eyes and asked me where Nina was. I had been praying for wisdom and grace for the last week. God listened.
Teddy: Where's Nina?
Rosy: Actually, I'm glad you asked. (We had just parked in front of Bennet's Educational Store in the Magnolia Shopping Center). That's why we are here.
Teddy: I remember this place.
Rosy: I thought it might be nice for us to pick a toy to cheer up Nina.
Teddy: Why? (beginning to look worried. How I have memorized each level of concern on that boy's face over the course of his almost 8 years of life!)
Rosy: Well honey, (I sat closer to him), I'm going to tell you something but I need you to be brave.
Teddy: (Shook his head yes but said nothing)
Rosy: Nina is at the hospital getting some medicine and I thought it would make her happy if we brought her a surprise.
Teddy: She's in the HOSPITAL!!! (panic beginning). Why is she in the hospital? Is she going to be alright. Tell me she is going to be alright? What is wrong with her???
Rosy: Well, honey the doctors are giving her medicine to feel better. Remember how she's had a hard time walking and not drooling, and has had a hard time having energy. Well the doctors are helping her to feel better with those things.
Teddy: But she's going to be normal again, right?
Rosy: I'm not sure honey. We are all praying.
Teddy: What do you mean???? (Now crying!) You mean she could not be normal forever???
Teddy: What??? Not my sister! She's the most important person in the world to me!!! (Wailing!!)
Rosy: Come here honey. (I held him and hugged him. He pulled away and wiped his tears)
Teddy: So is there a tiny chance she go not be normal again or a big chance?
Rosy: A very big chance!
Teddy: Not my sister!! I love her soo much!! Oh, God not my sister!
(We hugged for a long time! I was crying too! As I write this down, the bruises on my heart are throbbing psychotically!)
Rosy: Teddy, it's okay to cry. It's okay to be worried. We all love her and everyone is working hard to help her.
Teddy: (Wiping his tears). Okay...let's go get her a super surprise. She can have whatever she wants!
(We walked through the store. Teddy asked for the girl section and immediately made his choices. He picked an enormous stuff pug and white tiger. Then he found two penguins and two mice. I made his pick a lego set for himself although he declined. I insisted. He explained how he is now into Power Miners and picked a box. We proudly carried the stuffed creatures back into the car. Immediately upon buckling, he turned to me and said......)
Teddy: Okay mom, you can tell me the truth. What is wrong with Nina? I can handle it!! (Said this with extreme authority and confidence).
Rosy: Are you sure you want to hear the truth?
Teddy: Yes! Tell me!
Rosy: (I reached over and grabbed his tiny hand) Well, the truth is that there is a part of Nina's brain that isn't working right.
Teddy: Not my sister!!!! (This was followed by about 3 minutes of wailing and screaming and pleading with God! I don't know how I didn't vomit! It was complete and total Grace!)
Rosy: Everyone is working hard to help Teddy. All we can do is pray and love on her!
Teddy: This is terrible! (Crying more)
Rosy: It's okay to cry honey. I've been crying a lot too, so has Daddy. It's okay to be sad. (We just held each other).
Teddy: Okay...(wiping tears)...I wan to go see her.
(We started to drive. About 2 minutes later he started to hyperventilate.)
Teddy: I can't resist it any more. My heart feels like it is going to pop!
Rosy: Don't resist it honey. Just let it out! You need to let it out.
(I just held his hand and kept driving. Then he turned to me and said, eyes blood shot and already swollen, freckled nose that I love so much red from grief....)
Teddy: Mom, mom can you please pull over. We need to pray (then his tiny lips quivered) we need to pray for a miracle!!!
(I have been avoiding writing this entry for a couple of days because I can't resist but cry when I remember. My precious boy demonstrated and experienced every ounce of pain and grief that we had as adults. But in the biggest shock of his life, where did he want to go....pray to God above!!! Perhaps Todd and I had done a decent job parenting him after all! By now, I was crying non-stop. I pulled over and he grabbed onto me with a ferocity I had never seen before! We prayed. We prayed. Then we wiped our faces and drove to the hospital. When we arrived, he continued with this...).
Teddy: So did you guys find a brain surgeon yet? (How in the world did he know about that???)
Rosy: No honey, they can't do brain surgery for this.
Teddy: Oh. Is she hurting?
Rosy: No. They are giving her medicine. But she is very crabby today b/c she needs to poo. That's why I thought you could bring her a toy. Also, I thought you might like to see the hospital room (He looked at me suspciously).
Teddy: I'm nervous. Will she know who I am?
Rosy: Of course. It's okay to be nervous. Just be your sweet self but remember she might be crabby.
(We went inside and he was so happy to see her. He have her the stuffed animals and encouraged her to name them. She smiled when she saw him. The first smile she had given anyone that day! But she was very lethargic and cranky. Nurses kept walking in and further pissing her off. I explained to Teddy what they were doing; making sure temperature was okay. We explained how the IV worked and he listened carefully. Periodically, he would run his hands over her bare feet and try to get her to play with the toys but she was too tired and to weak).
Teddy: Nina, you want me to do the booty dance??? (He wiggled her bum and she smiled. It was obvious the smile made him feel better).
Teddy: Why is she so tired?
Rosy: Because she didn't sleep much because she needed to poop. You know just like at home when she doesn't poo for a long time she gets super mad.
Teddy: (nodded his head)
(We kissed Nina and Todd goodbye and went outside. We sat on the grass right in front of the hospital. He crawled into my lap and said...)
Teddy: Did the tv cause this?
Rosy: No honey it didn't.
Teddy: Is it because he bonks into things all the time?
Rosy: No it isn't sweetie.
Teddy: Is it an illness, like when Cami had the stomach flu?
Rosy: No honey, you can't catch this. It was just there. You know, like your blue eyes. You were born with them. Nina was born with this in her brain. It's just how it is. We didn't do anything wrong, she didn't do anything wrong. It was there.
Teddy: Do I have it?
Rosy: Don't worry, you don't have it in your brain. It just happened to Nina and we are all going to love her.
Teddy: Well I think she is going to be alright because there were a lot of super smart people in that room.
Rosy: (Smiled and kissed him!) Hey, how did you know about brain surgeons?
Teddy: You know, the movie about the black man, who fixed the babies with the stuck heads. (Then it dawned on me that about a year ago when my in-laws had visited we had watched the Ben Carson Story with Cuba Gooding Jr. We thought he would like it but he kind of drifted back and forth between watching it and playing legos. The details he now described to me let me know he had absorbed everything. What an incredible child!!! By this point, Todd joined us.)
Rosy: Teddy, do you have anymore questions for us?
Rosy: Whenever you have questions or you want to talk, just let daddy and me know. Okay? We are a family and we are here for each other!
(The three of us hugged for a long time. Then Teddy pulled away...)
Teddy: I want to go home (looking at Todd).
Todd: Okay honey, let's go!
(Teddy gave me a gigantic hug and kiss. I reminded him how much I loved him! Then my sweetheart walked off with his father. I sobbed!!! What an incredible boy!!! Just when I thought I couldn't be humbled anymore, here was my almost 8 year old demonstrated more grace and heart than most adults do!!! Praise God!! As I walked back into the hospital my heart hurt deeper. Just when I thought it was impossible to experience any more pain...here it was...deeper, sharper, ever present!)
|Precious boy! Perfect face! Tremendous heart!|