Sunday, December 07, 2008

I'm Still Here

I see that my last post was October 30th. I think it was October 9th that my perinatologist put me on modified bed rest, and I promised R. that I would not "spend hours slumped over the computer keyboard." In any case, it was on November 17th that I was hospitalized because the baby showed signs of being in distress, and on November 26th that my tiny and beautiful son was born, two months early. Early in the morning on December 2nd he became ill, and by the evening of the 3rd he was gravely ill. He now seems to be getting better: "progressing," the doctor says.

But that's not what I came here to tell you about, as Arlo Guthrie says. Came to talk about my grandmother, and about prayer.

Grammie taught me to sing "Jesus Loves Me," and to play it on the piano (she wrote the notes in pencil on the ivory keys of her baby grand, and the melody in notes on a piece of paper: GEEDEGG...); she taught me to say "Now I Lay Me" and then the Lord's Prayer, and she taught me all the Bible stories I know. I can still hear her voice softly calling "Samuel! Samuel!" and see her aged fingers pressing into the imaginary holes in her palms. Grammie had two Catholic suitors and chose the one who did not insist on raising his children Catholic, so I'm not sure she would be happy that I found my home in the Roman Church; but I am sure that she helped lead me there.

So many people are praying for my son, and I am praying too, but it is hard. When I pump breast milk, and try to achieve let-down even though I don't have a baby in my arms, I say the Hail Mary over and over. It seems appropriate, and I tell myself that the Blessed Mother would only laugh
with me at the absurdity of the breast pump. I speak to all the saints I love, and all the ones who have a special interest in sick babies. In a way, though, I didn't feel I was praying very well until I got a song stuck in my head:

Why should I feel discouraged, why should the shadows come,
Why should my heart be lonely, and long for heav’n and home,
When Jesus is my portion? My constant Friend is He:
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

I sing because I’m happy, I sing because I’m free,
For His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

“Let not your heart be troubled,” His tender word I hear,
And resting on His goodness, I lose my doubts and fears;
Though by the path He leadeth, but one step I may see;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

I sang it to my baby through the porthole of the isolette on Friday afternoon, and he opened up his tiny dark-blue eyes for the first time in a long time and gazed at me. That song kept playing in my head, and then yesterday morning I sat on my bed combing my hair, which since I went on bed rest has reached the middle of my back and is the devil to comb. I remembered that Grammie told me when she had my mother her hair was a mass of snarls, and her mother came to the hospital and gently combed it all out. I thought of another song, "In The Garden," one of the two that Grammie wanted played at her memorial service:

I come to the garden alone
While the dew is still on the roses
And the voice I hear, falling on my ear
The Son of God discloses

And He walks with me
And He talks with me
And He tells me I am His own
And the joy we share as we tarry there
None other has ever known

These gospel songs were the songs of my grandmother's youth. Like Laura Ingalls Wilder in 1883, my grandmother in 1927 went to tent revivals as evening entertainment. So yesterday I sang "In The Garden" through the porthole, and thought about Grammie. R. was the only one of her great-grandchildren she ever saw--she died when he was 11 months old--but I will never forget the way she received the news that he was expected, so joyful and yet so comfortingly matter-of-fact. It made sense, given that a baby is a common occurrence and a miracle at the same time. Faith can move mountains, but perhaps we show the most faith when we move a mountain and then move on.

R. and I left the hospital after shift change last night and drove wearily to my parents' house for dinner. "I've been thinking about Grammie all day," I said to my mother, and she said, "Today
is her birthday. She would have been 100 years old today."


Allison Slater Tate said...

That gave me chills. As you already knew, you are not walking this path alone.

Mary P Jones (MPJ) said...

I've been thinking of you. Thanks sharing this. I love those God moments. I'm keeping your baby and family in my thoughts and (such as they are -- a work in progress) prayers.