There is nothing more difficult to experience as a parent than caring for a terribly sick child. I’ve gotten a mere glimpse of this feeling throughout this week, and my heart is breaking for parents who have to suffer through the experience of caring for chronically or terminally ill kids. This week, our lives were put on hold as a 7-10 “version” of the stomach flu made it’s way into Jackson’s little body. He threw up last Thursday, and continued throwing up constantly for the next 4 days. I’ve never seen my child be more vulnerable, in more pain, or with more fear in my life. And it completely broke my heart.
What didn’t help matters was an event that took place Friday night, after Jack’s first full day of illness. I woke up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom and I heard a sound that scared me: running bath water. Josh had already gotten up and because the water was running, I figured Jackson had probably soiled his bed so badly that a 3 a.m. bath was critical. I stood at the top of the stairs for a moment, trying to wake up enough to be of some help once I reached the bottom step. I remember taking a deep breath before I put my grey sock down on the wooden step, heading toward the chaos downstairs. In a flash, I was on my back, hitting every single hard step, bumping the entire right side of my body on the way down. Somehow, I turned or flipped to land directly on my back in our hallway. I’ve never fallen down an entire flight of wooden stairs, especially to land on my back. The pain was excruciating, and what pained me most was that I wouldn’t be able to help Josh or assist with Jackson.
All I could do was lie there.
I’ve known people who have had horrible tragedies from accidents, and because I am only crooked and bruised and not terribly broken, I am so grateful. Lying in the hallway, the pain was so great those first twenty minutes, I didn’t know if I would need to be rushed to the ER. I couldn’t move my right arm or leg, I could barely breathe from the thud on my back, and I knew I had broken at least one toe. It was terrifying, especially as I was listening to the screams and wails of my child in the tub.
We spent the next several days in survival mode. We had a bucket or bowl around Jackson at all times because he threw up constantly. And I had to put my injuries aside, hobbling from doctor’s visits, ER blood testing, and grocery stores to tend to my sickling. The weather has actually been beautiful, but I had to hide my bruises with sweatshirts I could barely get over my head. It was a rough, long stretch of five days. Jackson spent most of that time sleeping, crying, or vomiting, and he also spent that time growing! Not only is he taller, but the lack of food caused his round baby-belly to sink in. Josh and I are actually hoping it comes back, if only for another few months.
In the midst of all of this, Sunday morning was my first church service playing the piano with the worship team. After having put music on hold in my life for many years, I began playing piano again when Jack was a baby. Josh bought me a beautiful piano that someone was off-loading for $100. Being able to play at Engedi (I hesitate to use the word ‘perform’) is such a gift to me, and I was really looking forward to my first week on the team. Of course, walking on/off stage in front of our whole church when I have bruised ribs was painful for many more than just me, I’m sure. I was hugely disappointed at the timing of my accident. But, as I stopped to think about it: When IS a good time to fall down the stairs?
As silly as it sounds, this accident was a huge wake-up call for me. First, and most obviously, I need to hold on to the wall when I’m walking down my stairs at night. And maybe not wear socks. (duh!) Secondly, I need to swallow a lot of pride that is still built up inside me. There were many times this past week where my foot turned purple because I refused to lie down, elevating my feet. Dishes were waiting, food needed to be cooked, laundry needed to be done. It will never make sense to Josh why I push myself beyond my physical limitations and actually expect healthy results. And it will never make sense to me why I don’t listen to him more.* I also didn’t realize that playing piano in public again had given me even the slightest air of pride. It certainly helped bring it down as I hobbled to the keys, painfully pushing the pedal to fade in the E minor chord.
Maybe what I needed was a good fall down into reality. Maybe I just need to Stop. Listen. Remember. Heal. Think. Pray. Forgive. I have so many more personal, spiritual, and emotional bruises than I do current physical ones, and I’m usually hiding behind a sewing machine, oven, or piano to avoid doing the hard work of putting the pieces back together. I’m so thankful that God protected me from severe injury. And I’m even more thankful that He uses our pain to teach us really hard lessons. And I’m always grateful for the beautiful reminder that this is my greatest gift, my first priority, and the best reason to be humbled before the Lord:
*I was, however, willing to take advantage of the amazing blessings of friendship: our small group friends and leaders brought us an amazing meal, allowing me to take it easy, foot-propped and all. And I’ve left more furballs and dirty dishes around the house than ever before.