One year ago today our twin boys were born. It was a beautiful, exciting and nearly tragic day. Just a few short hours after their birth, Erin was bleeding out on an OR table while I anxiously paced the hallways of Labor & Delivery praying with a desperation I’ve never felt before. It was an evening filled with darkness and light, despair and miracles, loneliness and friendship, abandonment and intimacy.
When I think back on that evening and the precarious days that followed, I’m struck by one overwhelming question… Did that really happen? It seems so far away from our reality now. I mean, for a good month or so it was so real I could almost taste it. It was always on the forefront of my mind or at the very least hanging onto the bottom of every thought like some barnacle on the hull of an old ship, showing it’s face for a moment and then diving quickly below the surface again. But now it seems distant, like a dream or something. Buried beneath six feet of diapers, bills and daily responsibilities.
I guess it’s just part of coping with heavy situations, like a defense mechanism or something. I imagine we’d hardly be able to move forward and get anything done if we were constantly aware of how fragile life is and how our entire world could change in the blink of an eye. It would be somewhat paralyzing. Perhaps our heads would explode from the pressure and so we have this little secretary in our brains that prioritizes the stuff that needs to be recalled quickly and moves the rest to the file cabinet in the basement to keep it out of the way.
But there are moments…. Moments when those memories flood back in like a tidal wave. Sometimes I’ll be holding Wyatt and I simply look into his eyes and they bring me right back to that delivery room when they were rolled Erin’s bed out to the OR. I was holding him, my arms were shaking and I couldn’t make them stop.
Sometimes, when I’m visiting someone in the hospital, I have a vivid memory of walking the halls between Labor & Delivery and the ICU in the middle of the night. There was an eerie sort of stillness…well, it may have been the stillness or it could have been the cardboard cut-out of that nurse at the end of the hallway that scared the crap out of me on more than one occasion.
Sometimes when I’m driving at night, I recall the exhaustion I felt while driving over to Winnie Palmer Hospital at 1 am after they loaded Erin into the ambulance.
And sometimes I remember that remarkable omelet I had the next morning from what has to be the greatest hospital food service in the history of health care.
Lately when those memories come back they don’t bring the same emotions they used to. Don’t get me wrong they still bring emotions, very strong ones. They’re just different. They used to be accompanied by feelings of utter gratefulness or sometimes anxiety. And while I still feel those things, they are buried under a different emotion. One I’ve had a hard time putting a finger on, but today I think I figured it out. It’s longing…
In some very strange way, I miss those days and long to go back. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I’m sitting around thinking “Man, I wish my wife was dying again. That was awesome! I love facing the terrifying possibility of being a single dad of four kids…Good times!” I think that’s why I’ve had a hard time figuring out what I was feeling, it just seemed so odd and out of place. But now I’m starting to understand.
While the circumstances were unimaginably difficult, I have never in my life felt more loved and supported than I did during hours. It was one of the most healing experiences I could ever imagine. I long for the closeness I felt with Erin during those days and nights in the hospital, it was an unexplainable sort of intimacy. I long for the support of our friends and family that was both staggering and profoundly comforting. I long for the intimate and passionate dialogue that I had with God, the almost tangible feeling of being held in the very palm of his hand and the confidence that, even if my entire world came crashing down around, I could trust Him. It was beyond anything I had experienced before or since.
Charles Spurgeon helped me understand these feelings a little better. Not personally, since he’s been dead for quite some time and this isn’t “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure,” but through his February 12th entry in Morning And Evening:
“For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.” 2 Corinthians 1:5
There is a blessed proportion. The Ruler of Providence bears a pair of scales—in this side he puts his people’s trials, and in that he puts their consolations. When the scale of trial is nearly empty, you will always find the scale of consolation in nearly the same condition; and when the scale of trials is full, you will find the scale of consolation just as heavy. When the black clouds gather most, the light is the more brightly revealed to us. When the night lowers and the tempest is coming on, the Heavenly Captain is always closest to his crew. It is a blessed thing, that when we are most cast down, then it is that we are most lifted up by the consolations of the Spirit. One reason is, because trials make more room for consolation. Great hearts can only be made by great troubles. The spade of trouble digs the reservoir of comfort deeper, and makes more room for consolation. God comes into our heart—he finds it full—he begins to break our comforts and to make it empty; then there is more room for grace. The humbler a man lies, the more comfort he will always have, because he will be more fitted to receive it. Another reason why we are often most happy in our troubles, is this—then we have the closest dealings with God. When the barn is full, man can live without God: when the purse is bursting with gold, we try to do without so much prayer. But once take our gourds away, and we want our God; once cleanse the idols out of the house, then we are compelled to honour Jehovah. “Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O Lord.” There is no cry so good as that which comes from the bottom of the mountains; no prayer half so hearty as that which comes up from the depths of the soul, through deep trials and afflictions. Hence they bring us to God, and we are happier; for nearness to God is happiness. Come, troubled believer, fret not over your heavy troubles, for they are the heralds of weighty mercies.
In the middle of a trial like no other, I felt a consolation like no other. God and His church carried us when we were at the end of our rope. I am forever grateful to all of you and mostly to Him. I can honestly say I would not trade a minute of our story for anything. It is an inseparable part of who we are. I thank God for the “heavy troubles” and the “weighty mercies” that accompanied them.
A Few Days In March | Our Story of life, love, heroes, healing, family, friends, providence and pain