Having survived another Minnesota winter, May brought the promise of green plants, fresh air, flowers, and, at the end of the month, my birthday. Finding myself suddenly tucked away from it all for an indefinite amount of time, I was struck by a longing for Spring that even the darkness of February hadn't roused in me.
Despite my desire to breathe fresh air, I was very well-equipped in my spacious long-term-stay hospital room. There was a private bathroom with a tub/shower, a mini-fridge, a pull-out sofa, and a wall-to-wall bank of windows with a view of a gravel-covered roof beyond which I could see some of the buildings of downtown St Paul and the tips of two adolescent maples, bright green with the baby leaves of early Spring. I was so grateful for these two trees, and reminded myself that missing the entire month of May was an infinitely small price to pay for the life and health of my baby.
I made the choice to surrender May and make my room my own little cloister. As a mom of four young children, how many times had I wished for time to myself, for time to pray, for time simply to think... I was determined to squeeze the juice from this lemon and find its sweetness. But how could I when the life of my baby was in jeopardy? I was struggling with fear-filled questions that no one could answer. I turned again to prayer, this time settling in deeper.
As I often do in prayer, I pictured myself approaching Jesus seated on the edge of a stone well, up a small hill from a dusty path. We sit there together as I pour out my heart. It is always just him and me.
This time was different. As I approached, I saw that he was cradling something in his arms. I realized with a flood of terror that he was holding my baby. My baby. What did it mean? Did this mean that my baby was going to die? "You can't take my baby. That's my baby. That's my baby," I shouted at him over and over. He just looked at me, compassion in his eyes.
"No," he said, gently, "He's my baby."
Like a tantruming toddler, I refused to listen, sure that those words foretold the future and confirmed my worst fear. Angrily, I pictured Mark and each of our children, flinging them one by one into Jesus's lap, "Fine, take them all. If that's your baby, then take Mark, Iain, Lydia, Annie and Lucy. Take them all," I screamed at him, filled with fear and anger.
Still, he looked at me, his compassion deepening as my rage grew, his arms now cradling my whole family.
"And you," He said.
With that, the spell of fear was broken, and sobbing, I crawled into his arms and he held me. He held us all.
With no words of reassurance, no promises of health for my baby, or even of survival, Jesus had taken my fear and given me grace.
We were given this statue as a wedding present, it's the Holy Family, but it will always remind me of that moment in prayer, Jesus cradling me and