Little Eli fell.
The details aren't important; he cried and we both soothed him and worried a little.
Then he quit crying and started holding his breath with silent, jerky little sobs.
oh, Eli, don't do this. . . Daniel was telling him and my whole body went cold again.
We are going to get some help here. . . I was shaking, running for my phone. Couldn't find it. Couldn't find any phone. Wasn't thinking.
Yes, yes, call. Daniel is saying, just standing there, dazed, holding him.
We can get there faster ourselves, I say and start putting shoes on my man and starting the van and crying to my son to breathe and be okay.
Drive drive drive I say and then realize he can't drive while he holds him and I can't leave the kids so they have to come with us. I call them out of bed, hating the fear that they are going to feel and load them in. I am moving like the wind. I leave the door open and candles burning. I am not thinking.
Still jerky weird gasps from Eli.
I pray, out loud, and words stream out of my mouth as I drive the route I rode fourteen months ago to say goodbye to Gabe.
God, make him breathe,
You are a Healer, God.
God, I need my son,
God You are a Giver. . . be a Giver, God!
Daniel tells me to park at the ER and I refuse and drive to the double doors. Go, go go, just go get him in there. . .
I see my husband carry my son through those doors through a haze of tears as I park and I hate what he is reliving and I hate what I could find when I too, walk through those doors again.
I should have come back sooner, I think as I go in, realizing that I'm barefoot. I just couldn't bring myself to return. Daniel is here every other day. . . how does he do it? Same corridors, same trauma rooms, same little private family lounges where peoples nightmares start.
I find my husband and two nurses and I lean against the door jamb and take it all in. Eli is sitting up in Daniel's arms and making sad little coos to the nurses and they are all smiling and agreeing with Daniel that his respirations sound good but it's good to check and how far did he fall and they have a relaxed camaraderie from working together and everyone knowing why we're paranoid.
I am limp with relief and my face is wet with tears as I sit on the cot and hold him close to my heart.
He's okay? All that heart-stopping stress? The doctor looks so young and I feel so old and tired and weary. He says our son is fine and that he'll run any x-rays or scans that we would like, but really doesn't think it's necessary. Why was he jerking and not breathing? I ask and the doctor shrugs and laughs and says he was probably really mad. Eli. . .seriously. . .you took another couple years off my life and reinforced the need for my Loreal 5N.
I left the room, I left the emergency department, I walked out into the parking lot. . . retracing awful steps. But I was holding my son. I got into the van and held his face to mine and sobbed.
I know in my head that these are just childhood events that happen to everyone and and yet . . . he fell and immediately my mind spins an awful movie reel that my heart has already lived.
There's nothing we can do.
Going home with empty arms.
Newspaper notices with a photo of my baby.
I can't believe Eli's okay because I find myself always braced for the worst. It's eleven pm and I hold him and think back on my demanding words to God and wonder why He even answered. I don't deserve any of the good gifts He's already given me.
I am not entitled to my children.
My heart twists and I think of the sweet couple in our Compassionate Friends group who lost both of their little boys in a tragic car accident.
Their days are not promised.
I think of the Don't Carpe Diem post that has been wildly popular among all of my mamma friends and even though I totally agree and have so been there . . . I realize that each day is an incredible gift.
It all blurs together in my mind and I drift into a troubled sleep.
And unbelievably I dream of Gabe. This is a first for me. I have wished that I could dream about him because then I could have another memory, even though it wouldn't be real, only a figment of an exhausted imagination.
Someone brings him to a party as a gift to us.
I know he's there, but just assimilate him back into my little nest, like he never left at all.
There's crying and eating and unwrapping gifts and breaking up children's fights, smiling and taking pictures and then the party is over.
The nameless person who brought Gabe as a gift hands me a photo from the party of all of us together and I realize that he had been there.
Where is he?? Why didn't I go crazy with joy?? Why didn't I realize the gift??
He's not here anymore.
And I am left with only a picture, again.
I wake up and can't sleep again, disturbed by the realness of the dream and the reality of never seeing Gabe this side of Heaven.
Eli is wiggling and talking and I take him downstairs in the early morning dark and start some coffee; I lay him a blanket and sit next to him, my back propped against my favorite big chair, and I take it in. He laughs at my feet and I wave them at him. I pick him up and kiss him. I take in the moment. I feel the joy. I am still tingly with gratefulness and relief.
Daniel comes downstairs, headed to a long twenty four hours at work, fixing other peoples emergencies and seeing their raw grief and pain and he stops, too, and takes Eli in. He picks him up and holds him close. I tell him about my dream and cry against him, thankful for a man to lean on and love me through life.
And Saturday begins. Eli goes back to sleep. Cambria is up, asking in a demanding and whiny way for pancakes. I'm pretty sure I have poison ivy on my face (no idea how it got there). There are piles of laundry to fold and put away and beds to make and I don't feel super organized today.
It's real life, and it's not glamorized and I know that I will feel irritation today and I know the edgy surreal gratefulness for an uneventful ER visit will wear off and I won't always feel this thankful.
I will wish Eli would just stop crying.
I will say Cambria, you are entirely too old to be sucking your thumb! Take it out of your mouth!
I will say You will not say "I want pancakes and put syrup on top" to your mamma.
But that gratefulness is right there, under the surface, springing out in a big hurry when I realize how quickly life can change.
So if you're reading this, wallowing in bad attitudes and sleepless nights and groceries and runny noses and toddlerhood. . . I know.
I am too.
But just maybe carpe minute. In the middle of the crazy unending childhood drama of the diem.
Hug your babies.
Breathe them in.
Tell them you love them.
Kiss their little baby toes, their little preschooler noses, their little I'm-almost-seven-and-too-big-for-kisses cheeks.
Because tomorrow isn't promised and today -though long and weary and sometimes frustrating- today is what God has given.