How To Hold
By: magnolia_admin | September 18, 2017
Memory after surgery is spotty – I remember bits and pieces of the evening after waking up from having my chest cracked open and new passageways added to my heart. But I remember my older kids coming to see me that evening. They had been there through the whole surgery, but I don’t remember that.
I remember before – being in the room and all of us pretending we weren’t concerned, that we weren’t worried, that this was routine. But it wasn’t. Routine doesn’t get your spouse, your kids, your brothers, your father all up before 6 in the morning to come to the hospital to see you for thirty minutes before you’re wheeled back into an operating room. Routine doesn’t keep everyone sitting in a waiting room outside the SICU halls, doing the mundane things life is made of with the idea in the back of their minds that their mundane lives might never be the same after today.
I don’t remember any of that – I only know what I’ve been told. But I remember my kids coming that evening. Barreling into my room ignoring the visitor count with their boyfriend, girlfriend, and my nephew in tow. Filling the room with buoyant laughter and a happiness that life had not yet changed forever. Their stories were funny, their moods were bright, their futures were long. And so was mine. Our visit drew to a close, polite nurses blinking in and without words hinting that visiting hours were over and too many people were inside anyway, and my daughter, on my left side, bent down to give me a hug.
“We’ll see you soon, Daddy. I love you.”
“I love you baby.”
My son, on my right side, studied his possibilities. My arm was encased in some sort of splint to keep me from bending whatever tube they had left there, and I was still very obviously post-surgery, with IV lines, drains, and fresh incisions. He patted my free fingers and said
“I don’t want to hurt you.” Hand wrapped around my fingers he considered a hug and said “I love you, but I don’t know how to hold you.”
It’s what I’ve meant every time someone has hurt and I didn’t know what to say. It’s what I’ve thought, without the words, every time I didn’t know what to do for someone. It’s how I’ve felt about the people I love most – the almost overpowering love for my family that I cannot think too deeply about or I will be forced to my knees with the understanding that a broken heartbeat could rip it away. And sometimes rather than accept the weakness love creates, I pretend I am not weak. That I am strong. That I know how to hold the hurting, that I understand how to care for the needy, that my faith is strong enough for us all, and that my love can gather everyone I care about under a shelter when it rains. That we will never be hurt again – that I can protect us.
But I cannot.
Because my son spoke the truth – the truth I know of myself towards everyone I love:
I love you, but I don’t know how to hold you.
But I will live my life trying to anyway – because I’ve seen the alternative. Cowed into a shell, afraid of touching others because it could go badly. I could mess up. I could fail. I could hold them wrong. The fear is paralyzing – a desperate recoil from causing sorrow and pain. Holding people is hard. Loving people is hard. And if we do it wrong – they could be broken forever. The fear will hold you captive.
My two year old doesn’t know this yet. She bursts through my life with her arms raised, shouting “I want to hold you.” Because she knows the secret: holding is enough. However you do it.
I grinned at my son, curled my fingers into a fist and we bumped knuckles, faces cracked into grins.
“Sppppshhh” I whispered, weak from the effort, wiggling my fingers because I was told that’s how you fist bump. And we laughed.
So to my wife, to my children, to my brothers, to my sisters in law – to all of you who called, texted, prayed, sent food, babysat my youngest, told me you missed my being at work – thank you for holding me.
You’re doing it right.
“If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.”
Psalms 139:8-10 KJV
September 18, 2017