Ten years ago, Hurricane Katrina had ripped through the Gulf Coast. The levees barricading New Orleans could no longer hold back the torrential waters.
I remember well, because I watched stories of the aftermath unfold on the TV screen beside my husband’s hospital bed. For a week I drove to the old Fifth Avenue Parking Garage and, blurry-eyed, shuffled down the hallway route to his room. I waved to the nurses, prompting smiles shaded by piteous eyes. As I unlatched the closed door and passed the Isolation Room sign, I entered his room with a mustered smile that was hidden beneath a yellow mask. I was heavy laden with child.
A few days later he was discharged, weak and frail, but meningitis free. He returned to work on Monday and called off on Thursday to return to the hospital, this time to witness the birth of his second daughter. It was a hot September afternoon, and she arrived as gently as a near nine pound baby can. Ten years ago.
There were no gale force winds, no broken levees, and the hospital was dry.
Round cheeks, dark beady eyes, perfect little lips, and a tiny streak of blonde in her dark hair. The doctor wanted some tests run. So we took our beautiful baby girl home to reunite our little family of four, and we waited. Tests came back negative, but other findings prompted further testing and further waiting. I learned a bit about genetics and chromosomes. I learned a lot about loosening my grip to give my baby girl over to God. Then we learned she did not, indeed, have a heart defect and was as healthy as any baby should be.
Her name means hope.
Accidents happen, and she is the only one of my children (as of yet) to have broken a bone, undergone anesthesia (twice), and have had her head glued to close a deep cut. (The mysterious lump under her eye at age five was not a tumor and stitches have not been part of the repertoire.) But I believe her compassionate nature only grew stronger as a result, and I have learned a smidgen about compassion too.
I am told there is no word in the English language to describe the feeling of indentifying other’s suffering so much the heart hurts, but compassion must fit in there somewhere. In December 2012, I undertook a Pinterest project and proudly hung three newly crafted stockings from the mantle. Two days later, the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting shook the country and shook me as 20 six and seven year old students and 6 staff members were murdered. Every time I walked down the steps, my seven year old’s stocking caught my eye, hanging front and center. (I wondered how many of those parents had hung their child’s stocking earlier that week.) Whatever that non-existent word is, I felt it, and I wept. And I hugged my girl close and often.
I visited a friend after a miscarriage (another one), and she told me not to pity her, but to please please go home, hug my baby tight, and by all means thank God every single day for giving her to me. I did. I do. More weeping. That word again…
This middle child of mine brings delight. I don’t deserve her hugs every morning or her sweet love notes left on my pillow. (“I love you more than chocolate…”) I don’t deserve the joy she brings as she sings and reads to her younger brother and the tenderness she exudes as tears spill over the death of her older sister’s pet fish. I’ve certainly tightened my grip on her again many times over since that first “letting go”, trying to take back from God because what if we lived in Newtown, Connecticut, or what if that lump had been a tumor, or what if those chromosomes had been something bigger and I had never gotten to meet her? What if…? What if…? What if…? I don’t understand why I was shown kindness.
But I do know I was shown kindness. And I do know that God uses suffering to produce in us character, and character, hope. And whether that suffering is my own or my heart hurting for another’s, hope grew in me through the life of my second baby girl.
Oh, my hope is not in her. It’s not even in the hope that nothing bad will happen to her. No. My hope is in Christ alone, in his death and resurrection. My hope is in his good purposes, and that he will carry them out to completion. My hope is in his promises, especially the promise that he will make all things right.
Excitement and trepidation together overtake me as we look ahead at the next ten years. My fists grow worn out from clenching so tightly.
But that little ribbon of blonde that has streaked through my little girl’s hair since she was born – God put it there as His reminder of the Hope He has given me. A decade of mercy, grace, and hope.
Here’s to as many more as God will allow. My palms are open, my fingers unfurled. I know He will fill them with hope. Whatever that looks like, I know His plans are good.
Yes, my soul, find rest in God;
my hope comes from him.
Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.