Strength in Weakness
“(It is) a radical call to accept the truth of our lives and to choose to give our love when we are strong and to receive the love of others when we are weak, always with tranquility and generosity.” Henri Nouwen
“This is not supposed to be my reality.”
That is what repeated over and over in my mind as I looked at my trembling fingers, where blood was still evident in the nooks and crannies of worn fingernails. A mother is not supposed to have the blood of her children on her hands. I was sitting in the waiting room with no windows of the step-down unit Travis had transferred from ICU two days earlier. Even though there were no windows to confirm, I knew that the sun had just begun to rise above the horizon. It had been a long night. A long night that started with a jolt a week earlier.
February 11, 2016, at 2:00 am, we got the call parents dread. “Mr. Miller, I need to inform you your son has been in a motorcycle accident.” Immediately, we flew to his side on the other side of the US. Bruised swollen eyes, tubes all over his body, constant whirring and beeping of ICU machines screamed our son was on the brink of death.
The family joined my husband and I those first few days, but within a week, all had to return to the demands of life, all but me. Emptiness can be tasted. Even though there were people around, those I loved most and leaned on most were gone. The void was palpable, like sawdust on the back of the tongue making it a challenge to swallow, eat, and at times to speak.
Those early weeks, my nightly post consisted of a reclining chair next to the hospital bed where Travis lay. Every day filled with a mixture of fear of death and desperate hope. There were days of great hope. And there were days of overwhelming fear that he may not survive.
This night was one of the nights of devastation.
Shortly after dozing off, I heard the rustling of the nightly nurse. When I woke, I saw her working frantically on her computer at the foot of his bed. I looked over at Travis to see blood on his face. I mentioned it to the nurse, and she said she was aware and that was not the only place he was bleeding, not to mention he was now running a fever.
As time ticked further into the night, the bleeding got worse. Hours and hours, I sat on the side of the bed swapping one used gauze pad for a fresh one to ease the bleeding. Multiple accidents that night caused all the doctors to rush to emergency surgery, so the nurse and I kept watch over Travis until a trauma surgeon could come.
Finally, help arrived. When the doctor came into the room, a flood of relief washed over me. I was more than happy to comply with the request to step outside while she attended my son. Immediately, I went to clean the blood from my hands. Afterward, I realized it had been hours since I had eaten and my trembling body screamed for substance. But in the wee hours of the morning in hospital waiting rooms, vending machines were my only hope.
Trembling fingers, with remnant evidence of blood trying to hold a cold pop tart, was my reality that desolate morning. Sitting in one of ten empty plastic chairs, I have never felt so alone in my entire life. No one had seen. No one knew this mother’s fear of spending hours helping attend a desperately sick child.
Then it came. A flash from my phone. It was a message from my oldest daughter Jamie. “I was praying that you would have peace and feel God’s arms wrapped around you. This song came on the radio as I prayed. I pray you feel him holding you.” The song was Just Be Held by Casting Crowns. The lyrics crashed into my reality, taking me to my knees.
“Hold it all together
Everybody needs you strong
But life hits you out of nowhere
And barely leaves you holding on….
…So when you’re on your knees and answers seem so far away , You’re not alone, stop holding on and just be held . Your world’s not falling apart, it’s falling into place , I’m on the throne, stop holding on and just be held , Just be held, just be held
If your eyes are on the storm
You’ll wonder if I love you still But if your eyes are on the cross
You’ll know I always have and I always will
And not a tear is wasted. In time, you’ll understand I’m painting beauty with the ashes , Your life is in My hands
Lift your hands, lift your eyes In the storm is where you’ll find Me. And where you are, I’ll hold your heart, I’ll hold your heart. Come to Me, find your rest, In the arms of the God who won’t let go….”
How had she known? No one knew. No one knew but my God. From a different time zone, several states away, He spoke through my daughter. He saw the weakness. He saw the mother weeping. He saw her darkened lonely figure sitting in a cold hospital waiting room. And he spoke.
Never doubt the power of words to encourage. You never know, a broken, desperate mom may be starving for the nourishment of your words bring. For me, that morning, I knew the meaning of the scripture, “For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things” -Psalm 107:9. And even more beautiful it came from my child.