Today's entry has absolutely nothing to do with Advent, Christmas, God, messages or my usual fare. It's simply a bit of sharing from me to you...a submission I recently sent to a writing contest (clearly I didn't win or else I couldn't print it :) and a story that is dear, yet painful, to my heart. The topic on which we were asked to write was "Diligence" and the following immediately leapt into my consciousness (maybe today's blog does include God after all?). I hope you gain some insight from my humble words and a window opens to the challenges faced by parents and caregivers. During the period described below, I found myself starting on the slippery slope toward losing my voice - which at the time was the most depressing thing I've personally faced - but today is the single largest blessing as it has brought me to this new life and you.
MADNESS IN THE MORNING
I awoke with a start to a familiar feeling of dread, my blood running cold as I realized I had slept through my alarm in the night. “Oh, God, please let him be okay,” I prayed, incapable as yet of moving my frozen body from its fetal position on the bed. Though each ticking second could make the difference between a cheerful morning greeting and deafening silence from the room next door, I lie still, unable to will myself to rise and see if my neglect carried with it dire consequence.
How many months had my husband and I been stuck in this holding pattern of sleepless nights and repetitive warning bells? Eight months? Ten? My mind traveled back to a day in February when my son had arisen, shut the bathroom door to empty his bladder of nighttime urine, and crashed to the floor in a fog of low blood sugar. We hoped against hope that it was a singular incident, a fluke that follows the inconsistency of a child’s Type I diabetes.
As I remained huddled under my blanket, I relived the terror of the moments following his collapse: his inabilities to walk, grasp a glass of orange juice, answer familiar questions, or tell me my name. I felt once more the hot flush over my body as my cell phone rang with a return call from the endocrinologist, holding my breath as he responded to my question, “Could this be permanent?” I experienced again the blessed quieting of my heartbeat as my son slowly came back to himself, the glucose penetrating his bloodstream, returning his brain and motor functions to normal.
Then I shuddered as I tortured myself with the next horrifying memory: the same scenario repeated three days later, only this time concluding with a trip to the emergency room to check for lasting damage to Braden’s cognition. I remembered with heartbreaking clarity the resolution of meeting my husband’s gaze across the hospital bed, knowing without speaking that we were vowing at that moment to never let this happen again. The sudden image of Drew’s sorrowful blue eyes snapped me out of my reverie. “Lord, please, not on my watch,” I begged.
How had we survived these months of sacrifice? Night upon night of blood sugar checks; sleepwalking through the pricks, bloody fingers and readings; rousing violently when seeing a number less than eighty; patiently enduring the common diabetic belligerence with a low reading while doggedly shaking our slumbering child, attempting to feed him life from a can of Slim Fast milk chocolate shake and a straw. The careful planning of tenacious but internally frantic parents, setting alarms, taking turns by night, coming to each other’s aid when exhaustion began trumping functionality. Most recently, fighting depression, anxiety and morbidity of thought in an effort to persevere through this constant reminder of life’s fragility, the sacred commitment of parenting at the forefront…the sacrifice at the rear.
I looked up at the clock, only moments having passed as I raced through my memories. A sound next door, a stirring from inside Braden’s room, roused my sense of hope. “Hey mom, how’s it goin’?” my eleven year old asked as he walked down the hall toward the sports page and his morning cereal. Then like Heaven’s gates opening to flood my soul with light and life, the realization rushed at me that Monday wasn’t my regular night to check him. In the haze of morning, the assiduousness of the past year had exhausted me to the point of blurring the lines between delusion and reality. Now a tiny recollection of my husband arising at 3:00AM pervaded my consciousness, and with it dissipated the nightmare I was suffering.
Before my son’s diagnosis, I had always considered my painstaking attention to detail a virtuous character trait, one distinguished by hard work and pride in my accomplishments. I tried to exemplify integrity and industriousness in each job, vocation and occupation I pursued. But never before had I labored consistently in honor of something grander and more profound than ethics. I have learned this past year the true lesson of persistence in pursuit of a cause. I never realized until this period of tenuousness that diligence isn’t just the difference between an admirable work ethic and an attitude of laissez-fare. Sometimes diligence is a matter of life and death.