Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Small Kindness of a Friend

It was the worst week of my life. I felt like a zombie, mute and will-less, driven only by a supernatural force to competently complete the funeral arrangements. My daughter's birth was traumatic, her life hard, and circumstances surrounding her death were difficult. She was not an easy child to raise with her disability, and now she wasn't easy to bury. 

My mind reeled back to the past. Everything was normal and healthy up to delivery when things suddenly took a turn for the worse. It was the twenty-first day of October at 8:45 pm. I was full term pregnant and sitting at my mother's kitchen table laughing with my sister when a gush of liquid warmth drowned  our humor. Sis, twenty years my senior, and a veteran of the game with seven outs, hustled me to the dugout for a quick analysis. Then it started, pain like I had never felt before. Shaking like a leaf I made a quick call to hubby at work while sis timed the contractions. Five minutes apart and steady as she goes we set a course for the hospital.

In the fog of the night laced with Demerol, horrendous, broken  phrases cut into my mind like gnarly demons; phrases like, "...where is Dr....we've got a one footling breach in here with one foot already presenting!'s on call...tell him we need him here NOW!". 

Finally, blurred faces with white masks and dark eyes rushed me to delivery. I felt like I was living a nightmare. Imprisoned by pain and confusion, I tired to fight off the captors, but they strapped my arms to a table. I shook off the anesthetic cover that threatened to suffocate me. Someone rasped, "Put her under now!" Enraged and afraid I drifted off to a dark place. When I re-entered reality I was tucked into a bed in ICU. The delivery was natural but the dangers and complications of a breech birth went well beyond my own hemorrhaging.

Sharon was born just before midnight.
She was barely alive, and confined to a constantly monitored and temperature controlled incubator. Tubes and medical paraphernalia surrounded her little body. For  weeks I peered though a glass window into a small room where they wheeled in the incubator so I could look at her. My arms ached hold her; to draw her to my heart and pour my love and strength into her. My fingers yearned to count her toes and fingers and to caress her tiny hands, but all I could do was stand before that window and weep. It was as if she were a tiny sleeping beauty encased in a glass coffin, and I was treated like the wicked queen who caused  her near death experience.

Young and bullied by a medical staff that saw themselves as little gods, I got few answers to my questions. The responses I did get were dark and filled with lies. They did everything within their power to protect the drunken Dr. who nearly severed my baby's spinal cord. His neglect and alcohol clouded judgment were overlooked. Our requests to transport our child to one of the best neonatal units in Wisconsin were repeatedly refused. After three weeks we had enough of their archaic and incompetent practices and arranged the transport. 

At the neonatal unit we were treated with compassion and respect.  Not only did  they  discover the injury caused by the delivering physician, but their warmth and compassion treated our broken hearts. Discovering that I had not held my baby girl in all those weeks it became their priority to place her in my arms as soon as she was settled in and stabilized. Sharon was six weeks old when we finally took her home. A tiny, disabled miracle entrusted to two young, scared human beings. 

Now, thirty-two years later, I was standing in the foyer of our church greeting those who had
come to comfort us in our loss, and pay their last respects to the young woman who lived out her life from a wheelchair. Most of the visitors were family, friends, and members of our church, and the remainder were those personally acquainted with Sharon. 

I stood greeting what seemed like an endless line of fellow mourners and although it was trying I did not want to miss a single one as much for myself as for them. I needed the strength they offered and they wanted to know that hope lives on. I was exhausted, my tears nearly spent, and my lips dry when I felt a hand on my shoulder. I turned to find a friend holding a plain, styrofoam cup of cool water. She gently handed it to me and simply said, "For you."  

In that moment, my friend was the epitome of Jesus. The personification of everything holy; the embodiment of hope, forgiveness, grace and love found its way into that commonplace, resin chalice, and living water was poured into my soul through a simple act. I will never forget it. The small kindness of my friend will live in my heart forever.

1 comment:

  1. my heart aches for your loss and rejoices with you in the love you received from so many and the true kindness of your friend. Hugs, Katherine


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