I was five when they told her I might die.
My delicate spine bruised like a blooming flower in yellows and violets and then the dull brown of dying blood.
It was this blood that was no good. The very thing we had in common.
I lay in sterile pallor on the thin bed, crinkling under the sheet with the plastic covering, ready to be stripped down and reused again, should the bed be vacated by tragedy or triumph. The rooms in this hall opened to reveal tiny wig stands that reminded me of a boutique of bodiless white styrofoam guards keeping watch over their tiny patients.
There were other things. I woke to find a St. Bernard in my bed once, a tiny stuffed dog with his medicine barrel strapped to his neck. I named him, Pete Fitz after a friend of the family I can no longer remember.
And she was always there, by my bedside, curled uncomfortably on a slim cot. Being woken throughout the nights when the nurses would stalk in with heavy footsteps and reach with cold hard fingers for my tiny wrists. Pushing aside my plastic bracelet which told me I was a prisoner to the needle pricks every time the door swung wide and the harsh fluorescent triangle of light would cut across my bed.
I would reach for my mama, and she would be at my side even as I rolled toward her. I would cling to her hands, feeling the warmth encircle mine and turn my head and she watched every tear as they poked and prodded and she never sobbed heavy over me.
I don’t know when she found the time for her tears. I only knew she soaked up every one of mine. I knew nothing but the pain in my body and the curious wonder of a child who can’t fathom their mother allowing the pain, but knowing she is good and trusting her completely.
She taught me of faith known by an élite sect, the mamas who wrestle with God’s will and pray for it, knowing it must be well with their soul even unto the taking of their baby.
She has faced this not once but several times as she’s raised us. This releasing into faith. The big kind that people always say they want but really don’t because that kind of faith hurts and tears and breaks things apart.
That kind of faith cripples the recipient with hobbled knees and broken spirit, so that what remains is absolute surrender to a God who can carry every shattered part.
That kind of faith is savage. It looks their dying child in the eyes, sunken and hollow, cheekbones pushing out of a face that was once cherubic and full and says, “Your will God, not mine,” and hopes to mean it.