When I was a baby, my sister wrote an essay about me; I’ve never read it, but I do know that because of it she got to meet Bill Clinton. I think she liked me after that. When I was a kid, my sister sung Stevie Nicks to me, and she told me Stevie would always be around to sing with me. Here’s one thing I knew this weekend: If my sister could have talked to us, this is what she would have said:
So, take my love, take it down
Oh, climb a mountain and turn around
If you see my reflection in the snow-covered hills
Well the landslide will bring you down, down
I know that while my sister and I don’t see life through the same lens in many ways, we always agree on Stevie Nicks. I know that because I’ve heard her sing that song the same way she might sing hymns on Sunday morning–like she believes the words.
I would have sung them over her a thousand times if I believed in them as much; I would have sung them if I thought they could heal her. Instead, I prayed.
At first, when we didn’t realize that this situation was actually the poster child for the phrase “life-or-death situation,” I still had plans. “I’ll pop over to Birmingham to see Mandi,” I thought, “And be back in time for dinner. And I really need to wash a load of towels.” I called my mom, and I told her quite matter-of-factly, “I’ll figure out what’s going on.”
But when I got there, I realized that a hospital is chock full of people who don’t know what’s going on. I was safe in the parking garage, but as soon as I crossed the threshold, my boots squeaking down the sterile halls, I entered the land of We Don’t Know. In a cold, cold room, I listened to a tired doctor tell me about the realities of that world.
“We don’t know if she’ll be okay.” He looked at me and my dad, my arms crossed against my chest, my dad’s eyes weary.
“We don’t know if the baby will be okay.” I tried to respond, and I think my dad did too, but instead, we just stared at him.
“We just don’t know.”
In a cold, cold room, you can sweat.
I called my family, and my voice shivered: “We just don’t know,” I said, and I knew they were shivering too, because the land of We Don’t Know is cold. Cold, cold.
What I do know is that plans fall away, and what is left are rows of worried eyes, eyes that check cell phones every four minutes and eyes that dart to catch opening doors that may deliver people with news, and eyes that tremble and then spill forth salt water, the sweat of the unknown.
What I do know is that misgivings and failures and scratches fall away, and what is left is what it’s all built on, and that is a thing called Love. This looks like standing next to a bed, whispering reassuring words that may not be true. This looks like wearing the same clothes for days in a row, because you weren’t prepared to stay, but staying matters. This looks like standing in an empty room and feeling your heart plummet, because where is she, they did not tell me she was going to surgery.
What I do know is that it was here, in the land of We Don’t Know, that I tasted a joy called Hope. What I do know is that Hope is stronger than despair, and stronger than coffee, and stronger than a strong, tough man crying. And Hope keeps a whole row of worried eyes watching the door, believing good news will come. Hope keeps a whole row of eyes down on their knees, believing that healing will come. And maybe sometimes Hope sounds like this:
Well, I’ve been afraid of changing
‘Cause I’ve built my life around you
But time makes you bolder
Children get older
I’m getting older, too
She talked to us again. She stepped back into the land of plans and dreams and chocolate milk. We left, perhaps a little ragged, but with surges of faith, and with our foundation sturdier than ever, sturdy enough to go back again the next day and the day after that.
And oh, we saw what Hope can do.
“Then my favor will shine on you like the morning sun, and your wounds will be quickly healed. I will always be with you to save you; my presence will protect you on every side.” –Isaiah 58:8