LUKE 9:37-40, 42,43
37 The next day, when they came down from the mountain, a large crowd met him. 38 A man from the crowd called out, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son, for he is my only child. 39 A spirit seizes him and he suddenly screams; it throws him into convulsions so that he foams at the mouth. It scarcely ever leaves him and is destroying him. 40 I begged your disciples to drive it out, but they could not.”
42 Even while the boy was coming, the demon threw him to the ground in a convulsion. But Jesus rebuked the evil spirit, healed the boy and gave him back to his father. 43 And they were all amazed at the greatness of God.
Tomorrow marks the two-year anniversary of Charlie’s last seizure. That was the seizure that did not stop. He had a fever that day and I had given him a bath to relax him because he always gets both tight and shaky when the fevers hit. I had laid him down in the living room to put his pajamas on. I thought he was shaking because he was cold. But then the shaking did not stop and he began to thrash and gurgle with the excess saliva that was collecting in his throat. I sat him up, with his legs still half in his pajamas, and hugged him like I could still the shaking with my hands. I lay him on his side so that he would not choke. I kissed his sweaty head while Jody called 911 because there was nothing I could do. The fireman came and then the emergency responders. They gave him oxygen and a lot of sedation. Half way to the hospital Charlie took another downhill turn which merited the siren and lights (you never want to get to that point). It was a long few days in intensive care with spinal taps and intubation and EEGs all to tell us what we already knew. It was a really bad seizure. In the middle of it, I kept wondering, what if I had given him Tylenol sooner? What if I hadn’t given him that bath and whacked out his temperature? There were so many questions with no real answers. So I prayed a lot on that vinyl chair next to his bed. I prayed for a fix. I prayed for him to wake up and be himself again instead of the limp rag the seizure had created…a body wrung dry from exhaustion.
He did wake up and he did return to himself and we did start medicine to manage the seizures and it has been two years, the magical number in neurology where they say you “graduate”. But when his neurologist asked me if I wanted to go off the medicine, I said no. Because I’m still scared. Because it could be the only thing keep the earthquakes at bay.
I know exactly how that father felt when he explained his son’s symptoms to Jesus: ineffectual, helpless, worn out. As a mother it bruises your heart to watch your child hurt. Whether it be fever, broken limbs, or mental illness, it feels unjust, like the world ought to grant the young ones a pardon. You raised these people, shouldn’t you be able to participate in their repair? The disciples couldn’t help, but Jesus did. Jesus healed the boy. No more thrashing and foaming at the mouth. No more screaming. But I am sure that father still feared, every time his boy stumbled or let out a cough that the sickness was still there, waiting off stage.
It’s a hard thing to trust in miracles, even modern medical miracles where you can see the cause and effect. I think the only way to let my bruised heart unclench, to keep the fear at bay, is to acknowledge the moment two years ago that brought us here and then to give thanks for all the moments we have had since. I can only live this day today and so I will. I do not know the future and my worrying will not change it.
So on this anniversary eve, I am issuing my mission statement for motherhood: I will remember the past, leave the future to itself, and give thanks for the present. We cannot be both soft and strong for our children if we let fear of what has been and what might be steer the ship.