A faint light poked its nose under the family-room door in the hallway of the mission home. Was it Sara? Was she still awake?
Tugging the lightweight blanket from the bed and wrapping it around my shoulders, I tipped from my room. Sara huddled beneath a pilled blue blanket on the couch, staring vacantly at pictures flashing on the silent television screen. A scattering of unopened magazines cluttered the floor beneath the dimmed lamp. I sighed.
Great. Just what I needed at a time like this. Another child to see to, another child to parent. Well, I’d been at it for years. At least I was accustomed to it.
“Sara, we’ve had a big day. You really should try to get some sleep,” I urged in a whisper across the room.
She sat up and rearranged her covers. “I know I should. But I can’t.”
Sara, long and lean, was beginning to show the week’s strain. Eyes darkened to indigo, puffy from crying. Translucent skin stretched taut across flawless cheekbones.
Too thin! Too thin! My mind screeched the warning. I’d tried to coax her to eat. She had no appetite. But then, neither did I.
We had shared a long week, bedside in the trauma unit. My son Kyle, engaged to Sara, only recently moved to California to serve a temporary stint as a missionary. Instead, he was in critical condition and comatose, the result of a hit-and-run accident. Taking a seat at the other end of the long couch, I curled icy toes and tucked my cold feet between the cushions before layering my blanket over hers. A companionable silence settled between us. I marveled at how deeply I had come to know this beautiful young lady over the past week.
What would I do without her? How would I manage when she flew back to Colorado in the morning?
On the other hand, I also recognized that, at twenty-two, she was definitely a member of the McDonald’s generation – expecting life to be neatly packaged in a Happy Meal. Made to order. Served on a platter. “Immediately, if not sooner,” as my daddy would have quipped.
Nothing about Kyle’s situation appeared to be that simple. This was not a quick fix, jiffy meal. Did Sam truly understand the gravity of all this? Whether Kyle lived or died, things would never be the same again – for any of us.
I worried that Sara was simply too naïve, too young, too inexperienced to recognize the far-reaching ramifications of Kyle’s situation. What was best for her? For Kyle?
Was this the time to shatter her confidence, destroy her illusions, slap her with reality?
A part of me felt that my own fragile faith depended upon the unwavering strength of hers.
Yet, at forty-seven, my jaded rung was higher on the ladder. I had dealt with loss – up close and personal. I had buried numerous friends, aunts, uncles, cousins, four sets of grandparents and, most recently, my own daddy. I was on a first-name basis with death.
And things worse than death. I had witnessed life with the wrappings torn away and knew there wasn’t always a prize inside. Glancing over at Kyle’s fiancée, I saw fresh team pooling.
“Oh, Carol, I don’t want to leave tomorrow.”
“I know, Sweetie. But the doctor said Kyle is stable. And this could go on for a long time yet. You need to finish your last semester of college. You and Kyle have a master plan, remember?”
“The best thing you can do right now is carry it out. For yourself and for Kyle. For you and Kyle as a couple.”
“But it’s so hard to leave.” Sara pulled a tissue from the box on the side table.
“I finally found the only person that I love enough to marry. He’s my best friend. We talk about everything. I can’t lose him now. I just can’t!” Her shoulders shook beneath the thin blanket. “I love him so much.”
“Yes, I know you do.” I gathered her in my arms. “And he loves you, too.”
“It would be so much easier if he were aware. If he could know and remember that I was here.”
“Somehow, deep inside, I believe he does, Sara. I – well – I feel linked to him,” I revealed. “I send him messages, and I think he receives them. Does that sound crazy to you?”
Sara listened intently with her seeing heart while I confided the sweet, scared communion I had been sharing with Kyle. “We communicate, Sara. We really do.”
“I believe you.” She dabbed at her eyes. “It’s your own personal miracle. And I’m not surprised. I’ve always known that you and Kyle share something special.” She smiled.
“You should hear him talk about you, Carol. ‘My mom’ this, and ‘my mom’ that. He loves and admires you a lot.”
That’s one of the things that attracted me to Kyle. His open respect for you and his dad.”
Sara leaned her head on my shoulder.
And I held her, a fragile-strong woman-child. The one that Kyle had chosen above all others. Now I was seeing – under the worst circumstances – what he could have only glimpsed under the best. She had eased her way into my heart. I was beginning to love her, too.
No matter what the future held, she would always be part of mine. No matter what.
Breathing in the flowered scent of her freshly shampooed hair, I smiled. There would never be mother-in-law problems between us. After weathering this, anything else would be trivial in comparison, even petty.
Look at us now. We were facing the unthinkable together. Shoulder to shoulder. Arm in arm. Hand in hand. I kissed the top of her head, drew her closer, sighed and smiled.
Just what I needed. Another child to love.
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