When I was about 4 years old, my parents checked me into the hospital for a week.
My feet dangled off the edge of a chair, ankles crossed together and swinging from front to back while I waited.
I had bitten my nails down to nothing, and now they were tucked into fists, sweaty and restless.
I had on a blue corduroy dress with flowers on the pockets.
I was terrified.
I wasn’t a normal four year old, or at least that’s what they told me.
Normal kids don’t have to check to see if the stove is turned off before they go to bed, nor do they obsess about baby sister’s breathing.
They don’t stare out the glass door and wait for daddy’s car, crying because he might be hurt or lost.
And so I sat.
A few minutes later, I followed the nurses down a long hallway and they put me in a big bed with plastic rails. They gave me a red Popsicle and told me they would be back.
Then they disappeared around the corner with my mother.
There was yellow tape outside my doors, and I could see it through the windows in my room. That was as far as I was allowed to go, because they told me those were the rules.
I would never break the rules.
I knew where I was supposed to be.
My mom and dad alternated nights with me, constantly reassuring me when they had to leave for a few minutes, but it did no good.
Once they were out of eyesight, all bets were off.
I remember the way the room smelled, and that the sheets were too crisp to be comfortable in. The people there wanted me to draw things, and I did, just to satisfy them.
But nothing changed.
At night, my mom would put cartoons on for me, and when my eyes finally closed, she would sneak out to make phone calls at the pay phone around the corner.
Past the yellow line.
I woke up one night to the sound of static and light flickering around the room aimlessly.
I climbed out of my big bed and opened the door.
I went right to the line.
I watched my toes, clenched on the edge of the tape as my breathing quickened. I needed to get to her, because in my mind, she wasn’t coming back to me.
I stood still, paralyzed with indecision.
She was there, and I was here.
I couldn’t do it.
Instead of crossing the line, I let my feet slide out from under me and I settled in a heap. After a few moments, I heard the sound of my mother’s giant laugh echoing from around the corner and I sat up.
I edged closer.
It got quiet, and again I closed my eyes and tried to make the fear go away.
The fear never listened.
Finally I heard her voice again and I tried to breathe quietly so I could understand her words from where I was. I don’t know how long I sat there because eventually the exhaustion overtook me.
I do remember being hoisted up onto my mother’s shoulder as she lifted me off the floor. She smoothed my gown behind me and tucked my hair behind my ear, whispering that all the while she had been there.
“I couldn’t see you, momma. I thought you were leaving. I didn’t…I didn’t…” She set me in the big bed, searching my face while the static hummed around us.
“What, baby?” She pulled the covers up almost high enough to hide me.
“I didn’t cross the yellow line.”
“You don’t need to, sweetie, because I am not going to leave you. Not ever, my love.”
“But I couldn’t see you.” I held her hand on my wet cheek, trying to make her understand.
To this day, I can see the hallway.
I can see the line.
I can see my tiny toes pressed up against it in desperation.
I don’t remember it because it happened once.
I remember it because I face it every day.
And even now, in the wake of my daughter’s death, I know this.
When I sit still, right where I am supposed to be, I don’t need to see Him.
Because in the dark of night I hear His voice, and He tells me He isn’t going.
He tells me to trust Him.
I am just around the corner, and I won’t leave you.
Dare I believe Him?
The answer is simple, but not easy. It is a daily leap of faith to sit so still.
My feet can touch the ground now and I am learning.
Courage isn’t natural; it’s a choice. It is an act of obedience and trust.
“I trust You, Lord…”
The words leave my mouth and find Him where He is, just out of eyesight, and He whispers back.
“Not ever, my love.”
“Not ever.”Leave a Comment