Tomorrow is Mercy’s second birthday, or “happy day” as we call it in our house. She has been quite clear as to what she wants for her celebration: “party hats, pink cake, hot dogs and apple juice.” I better enjoy the days when birthday wishes are this simple. I know that pony rides, doll cakes, and jumpers will come soon and then there will be slumber parties and parties with boys and I will long for the ease and innocence of party hats and hot dogs!
Last year on Mercy’s birthday, I was surprised by the great feelings of sadness that overwhelmed me on her “happy day”. When I went into her bedroom the night of her birthday to tuck her in after she had fallen asleep, I stood over her sleeping figure and wept. You see, Mercy’s birth was most surely a happy day. But it was also a day etched with the indescribable soul ache of a terrifying separation.
To even think about that day brings the tears so quickly; the memory of lying in that dark, still room, my gaze frozen on an 8 X 10 picture of a beautiful infant wrapped in the standard hospital issue blanket, mouth open, her head turned to the side. My sister had taken her digital camera to Target and printed up photos so that I could at least look at an image of the fragile creature I was desperate to live for. Transfusion machines, the constant presence of my nurse, my sleepless husband moving faithfully between nursery and ICU bed, and the drone of devices monitoring the life inside me are the dream-like memories I carry of Mercy’s beginning.
Most days, of course, I do not dwell on the fear and pain of that day. I am much too busy adoring a very spunky, exquisite little girl! But when her birthday rolls around, it is as if my joy in her must always bear with it the memory of the fear and the terrible ache. Maybe this will go away as we both grow older. Maybe a few years from now a birthday will come and go without my reliving the fullness of that day. I wonder how we will talk about it together someday, Mercy and I? For now it is something for me to carry in the shadows; it is my special portion of pain that wraps itself around the deepest love I have known. It is a reminder of rescue, of cries heard and answered by my God; it is a reminder that whatever the danger, my life and the life of my precious girl, belong in the hands of One who is trustworthy and good.
“They who dwell in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. They will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, our God in whom we trust.”