Midnight Musings

September 4th, 2009 by

It is January, 1991.
The day my son Will is born.
After thirty-six hours of labor…
And an emergency C-section…
My wife Rebecca is exhausted.
She’s had a few hours to bond with Will.
Share the joy with family members.
But now she requires sleep.
Which means…
I need to be a father for the first ‘real’ time.

We’re in a cramped room on the 3rd floor of Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles.
Rebecca lies in one of those standard hospital beds.
For the dads?
Something approximating a medieval torture device.
A Naugahyde chair thing…
That folds out into a too-short, buckled-in-the-middle, semi-cot contraption.

As Rebecca falls asleep…
I scoop up Will into my arms.
Going on 2 hours sleep since we arrived at Cedars, I’m extra careful…
As I tiptoe around the room.
Turn off the overhead lights.
Inch my way over to the torture device…
And while clutching Will to my chest…
Awkwardly of course…
Perhaps the second or third time I’ve held the boy.
I maneuver my body onto the contraption…
Cradling Will as gently as I can.

At first, he fusses and fidgets.
I pat his back with my fingertips…
And for some reason, start to hum something.
It’s a hymn.
Of the Father’s Love Begotten
A song for Advent.
A melody from the 4th century.
Why that hymn?
Perhaps Will in my arms reminds me of the Christ-child.
And the advent of a new experience…
Something called “parenthood”.

Will finally settles into sleep.
But he’s located in an odd position…
Up level with my head.
I consider moving him…
But I’m afraid I’ll wake the boy.
So there we lie…
I on my side…
Facing my son…
Who’s lying on his side…
Facing his father.
And in the dark silence…
I hear his breathing…
And feel…
The air emerging across his lips…
Little puffs…
Tapping against my forehead.
Over and over…
My son’s breath of life…
Caressing my face.

We lie like that…
I, afraid to move.
Don’t wake him.
And for hours…
Puff… puff… puff…
Feathery light traces of air…
Breathed in by my son…
Breathed out by my son…

It is April, 2007.
The night before my mother dies.
11 days before, I flew across the country…
After hearing the news of her stroke…

Every day and night since…
I have sat at my mother’s side…
As she lies unconscious in her hospital bed.

She is a Baptist, a believer…
A woman who has read her Bible every morning and every night for most of her 85 years.

And so every day…
For 11 days…
I have read aloud to her…
The New Testament.
Each of the Gospels.
Paul’s letters.
The Acts of the Apostles.
Even Revelations.

She never opens her eyes.
And yet I read the Bible to her.
Her beloved Scriptures.
Holding her hand in mine.
Hoping she can hear the words…
“Consider the lilies of the field, how they neither reap nor sow.
And yet I tell you not even Solomon in all his glory was arrayed like one of these.”

My mother did ‘talk’ to me one final time.
On the Saturday night before Easter Sunday…
What is known in the church as Holy Saturday.
I stand beside her…
Holding her left hand…
The paralyzed one…
I have picked up a hymnal from the chapel.
And I sing to my mother her favorite hymns…
Amazing Grace

Abide With Me

Go Tell It On The Mountain

She brings her right hand up toward her ear.
I think she is struggling to pull out the oxygen tube.
I cross to the other side of her bed.
And take her right hand in mine.

Opening the hymnal, I sing all the verses to…
Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing

Then I lean close and find myself saying,
“I love you, Mom.”

She squeezes my hand three times.

I sing another one of her favorite hymns…
Blessed Assurance

“I love you, Mom.”

Again she squeezes my hand three times.

I sing…
A Mighty Fortress is our God

“I love you, Mom.”

Again three squeezes.

By now my voice is a quivering mess.
Tears streaking down my face.
I struggle to sing…
Breathe On Me Breath of God

As I finish, my mother’s face…
Her eyes still shut…
Seems to find a place of peace.

“I love you, Mom.”
Her hand is silent.

Nothing but her breathing.
Puffs of air…
Across my hand as it caresses her face.

I stumble into the bathroom.
Totally overcome.
Three squeezes of my hand.
I. Love. You.

And now, it is the night…
Before her death.
I have sung hymns.
And read the Bible.
And held my mother’s hand.
And sat vigil with her.
And made sure the nurses have taken care of her.
Washed her.
Combed her hair.
Made her comfortable.

It is deep into the night.
Just my mother, myself…
And her breathing.

That’s all she has left…
Her breath.
And soon…
Even that will be taken from her.

We breathe in.
We breathe out.
It is perhaps the most basic aspect of life itself.

The air sustains us.
A continuous strand…
From our first breath…
To our last.

And the truth is…
Every single breath…
Is a miracle.

9 thoughts on “Midnight Musings

  1. Joshua James says:

    Scott, that was … incredibly moving.

  2. Nicholas says:

    Wow… I'm trying not to cry here.

  3. Jeff says:

    Okay, I'm a mess. Wasn't expecting that over my usual GITS and coffee this morning.

    Not a dry eye in the house.

    Wow.

  4. Bill Weinberger says:

    Wow, Scott. That was powerful. I was there for the birth of my children. My mother passed too quickly and far away for me to be there. But you captured the emotions of both. Beautiful.

  5. M says:

    It's incredible the number of things we take for granted.

    When knowledge comes not through words, but through experience, and one is able to learn from it, it is a great achievement.

    Greetings.

    M.

  6. E.C. Henry says:

    You got me choked up too.

    - E.C. Henry

  7. Peter says:

    Very moving Scott. I went back and read your all the Midnight Musings. Your writing invokes great passion, thank you for sharing that with us.

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