Grinning at G-d

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Let’s talk about two years ago, a bubble of time in Boston Children’s Hospital.

I remember waking her up early on the day of her surgery that had somehow finally arrived. We bundled her into a taxi before she could insist upon her usual fruit platter for breakfast, a little grateful and surprised that she was in good spirits. We drove along towards the hospital as if it was just an awesome early morning adventure. As if it was normal and even fun to get up and head straight to the hospital where we had spent the two previous days. When we arrived, we probably looked at the fish tanks on the ground floor before making our way up to the ward that prepares kids for heart surgery.

I remember the head down focus it took to chat lightly to her. I remember her being sweet and charismatic and undemanding. She had a faraway look in her black eyes before she made things “easy” by co-operating with us. Did she sense something?

Dressed in a strange assortment of my fanciest clothes (it had just been Tisha ‘b Av), I squeezed into the children’s hospital gown in order to make it look like a fun thing to do. The plan worked and she lifted her hands up to remove what she was wearing in order to also put on the colorful hospital “dress” that she had taken to. Step one successful of the many steps to come in the days that would follow. And then we did “slides” down the hospital bed as if that’s just what we do.

I see her smooth tanned chest before me in the place where her faint scar now stands. I see us playing our part in helping to anaesthetize her as quickly and effectively as possible. I remember the absolute broken feeling as they wheeled her off toward the operating theater. A huge cry and then somewhat relief.

I could let go now, something I had not done for a long while. The burden of her wellbeing lifted from my shoulders that had irrationally carried somewhat responsibility for her heart condition or just the possibility of it and had tried to keep her as healthy as possible in the years and months and days and hours and seconds leading up to that moment. I was exhausted.

After a long process, we were at peace with our decision to go ahead with the surgery, and I could exhale knowing she was in the hands of the best and ultimately in the hands of G-d.

We headed outside. There was music and green grass in this place that they try to make so cheerful for kids. There, we ate and Danny prayed before we headed to the official waiting room, where I tried to muster up focus and energy to offer up prayers too. But I found myself in a bit of a daze as I gazed at all the other parents also awaiting news of how their child’s heart surgery had gone. There was so much at stake in that room. And I found myself staring out the huge glass windows at the world outside that seemed so normal and so far away.

And then before I knew it, before I really managed to pour my heart out to G-d, the legendary surgeon appeared before us. Quietly spoken and confident, he told us that Noa’s. surgery. had. gone. well.

Noa’s. Surgery.Had. Gone. Well.

We were on the other side and G-d had made it go well. Could it have all been a challenge tailor-made for all of us? Noa came into this world with her heart condition but no apparent symptoms for the most part. Could it be that everything around the lead up to as well as the surgery itself were meant for her, meant to bring out her dynamism and fight and probably a whole lot of other stuff too? I found myself grinning at G-d. And for me, a tailor-made opportunity to confront and challenge my mistaken fears and beliefs and my wanting to be in control? For me? Seriously? Another grin, and probably a mutter of deep thanks.

And then before I had time to really breathe and shower and feed myself and my husband and digest it all and appreciate the time I could remain in “let go” mode,  we were summoned to ICU. I remember her lying there, looking like she’d had a rough time but for the most part the same, surrounded by so many machines and being monitored by a nurse taking her critical job so seriously.

Before long, it was time to wake her up. Her body was blue as they disconnected her from life support machines as she seemed to splutter to life. Oh my goodness, the fragility of existence. It was almost unbearable to look. “Is that what is supposed to be happening? Are they getting it right?” Slow agonizing seconds of panic as I could not but had to look.

Whew. We got to see firsthand one of today’s genuine medical advancements. We got to be one of the blessed ones to be on the other side of successful heart surgery. We got the privilege of being cared for by the most expert and refined doctors in the field. We got to enjoy the extreme and appropriate kindness of nurses who knew how to make things feel better. We got to feel so much love and prayers poured at us from all directions; from family and friends and strangers alike. And we got to grin at G-d.

The days after were filled with trying to sweeten the experience for Noa as much as possible. A blur of toys and balloons and smiles and apple juice and apple sauce and trying to respond to emails and of course being on top of her body temperature and her medication doses and water intake and monitors and tests. And after just four days in the recovery ward, we were out of there.

How do I express gratitude? How do I feel the appropriate amount? How do I make sense of the fact that two years later I don’t hold her close often enough or feel sufficient thanks in her presence? Perhaps it is the challenge of being a human being, so quickly taking things for granted. These days I choose to focus on the way she triggers me and leaves me fumbling as a mom and person, but I want to hold my gratitude again and carry it with me through my days. Look her in the eyes and thank her for forcing me to stretch and grow. I want to abolish that voice within that insists I’m not a good enough mom. I want to turn down the volume of all the insignificant stuff that tries to pretend it’s so all-important, and to remember the truly big things. And I want to always grin at G-d.

We are here. Noa is here. We are blessed with life. We have everything.

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