|Note the wrapped right hand for IVs|
In that pediatrics ward her mother and I were quite worried. Our little girl had a very high fever and was listless and lethargic. Among the marks of real Providence in our lives was the alert response of our pediatrician, who admitted our baby girl immediately. As it turned out, she was exactly correct. Several days of serious intravenous medication ensued, followed by a surgical procedure, and finally, gratefully, discharge from the hospital.
I will never forget those moments in pediatrics admitting, holding that baby girl, wondering where this suddenly very scary journey might take us. I had no idea, and I was petrified. She was so little.
But in those moments of fear, I also experienced a feeling that was entirely unique, solitary, and mysterious. It's something I have only spoken of a couple of times since; it is too difficult to articulate. There, in the bustle of a hospital, holding that child, I felt an almost tangible sense of God's presence. Strangely, as if something far more infinite was there with us all, in that room. Something Sacred.
And at the same moment, a single vivid and entirely unexpected thought seemed to overwhelm me and become more clear than just about anything I have thought or felt in all my years.
"I will be with you, wherever this leads."
More than anything else that scary day, I knew we were not alone. I can't explain where this came from, or even what it meant at its deepest level. This baby's sickness was not a random event. This was Peace, washing over me. And I needed it.
I have been reflecting on those days, and the arc of that girl's life these past days, as her mother and I have returned from Seattle, going the slow way home through Washington, Oregon, and the coast of California. On the road you have a lot of time to reflect on the mystery and wonders of the past seasons of your life. And you have time to ponder where God showed up in your life as a family. The road gives you the gift to forget your schedule for a while, and helps you put all those years of raising a family in perspective. The long road home helps you enjoy the slowness of the journey, and reminds you of where you have been. I think we spend too much time flying over life; the road connects us with what really happens down here on earth.
It started in a hospital admitting room, and, in part, it ended on an open quad at college, in a slightly tearful goodbye for the start of freshman year. This is the point when we all, parents and child, admit that its time to begin to part - to all find our own way in the world.
On that day last week, strangely I had a reminder of that same sense of Peace from almost 19 years before. It came in that sacred moment when I watched daughter and Mom embrace for a moment of parting. A hug. Tears. Peace. Right there, in front of me. How could that be? She was leaving us - how would she do? What would her future be like? Millions of questions. And yet, Peace.
I know this because 10 days ago, that same little girl, now grown and entirely ready to go, rested her head, for just a moment in a hug, on that same shoulder of mine. Then, she turned, smiling and making fun of her emotional parents, and walked confidently forward toward her new life in college.
So many years have passed, each one filled with a unique mixture of tears and laughter, frustration and joy, challenge and opportunity. I have this other name besides Steve. This girl calls me Dad. It will be the most sacred and joy-filled name I will ever be called.
Friends ask us how we are doing. Thankful. The word hardly begins to describe how we feel.