When I was nine-years-old, I had a bike accident that landed me in the ER. Nothing was broken—well, I take that back. My front teeth were broken. Yes, I planted my face right on to a newly graveled and tarred country road. I’m lucky I didn’t break my neck.
My parents rushed me to the hospital where the doctor began the pain-staking task of pulling out bits of road debris and my teeth from my mouth before sewing up my bottom lip. My mother stood beside me, holding my hand. Whenever the fear would creep into my eyes, she would squeeze my fingers and say, “Look at me. Look at me.” And I would calm. She would talk to me about my bravery as I laid perfectly still and wide awake.
She would do this for as long as she was able. Then, I’d watch out of the corner of my eye as she would go to the sink and throw up. After rinsing out her mouth, she would return to hold my hand.
As an adult, I can only imagine how hard it must’ve been for my mom to see her daughter bloodied and torn. And then to watch as doctors began what would be the long task of piecing me back together. But she stood there, by my ER bedside while that work took place.
What becomes even more significant is after I was discharged from the hospital, my mother also sat by my bed in my bedroom all that night. There weren’t any doctors or nurses to see her vigil as she carefully watched my fitful sleep. I would wake and find her sitting still and awake in the darkened room, and I would become calm. She was offering one of many quiet sacrifices a mother selflessly gives when watching over a wounded child.
Healing any wound hurts, but healing in the night can be the most painful. This wound was no exception. It hurt. And to this day, my heart fills with gratitude every time I remember this experience and my mom’s quiet vigil during that night. I’m grateful for her realization that no child should have to heal alone.
Now, forty-three years later, I was the one keeping the vigil at night over my mother as she lay dying. There was no fanfare around this act. Just a daughter sitting quietly by her mother’s bedside. On the rare occasion when my mother would wake, I would rise to smile into her eyes and remind her that I loved her. One last quiet sacrifice to honor the many offerings she made so willingly on my behalf. Because dying can sometimes be hard, and I didn’t want her to do it alone.