Monday, December 17, 2012

the day my heart changed

No, it wasn't the day I became a mother.
While I did fall hopelessly in love with my first-born, David,
 it was eight months later that I knew my heart had undergone an incredible transformation.

A Sunday in June 1984 marked the opening day of Girl Scout Camp White Rock,
tucked in the hills of West Virginia.
Bill and I had taken jobs there directing and managing the camp.
Parents dropped their girls off, staff helped campers settle into the units,
and girls headed for swim testing at the pool.

As I finished check-in procedures at the dining hall,
a breathless staff member burst in to report an emergency at the pool.
I sprinted down to discover the waterfront director and nurse huddled over a ten-year-old girl.
Her dark, wet hair curled around her face and she lay motionless on the pool deck
while the staff administered CPR.
"She went into some sort of seizure in the pool; she's not breathing," they told me.
The squad soon roared into camp to transport the girl to the nearest hospital, in Winchester, Virginia.
Bill and I followed in our car, but by the time we reached the hospital, the young girl was dead,
her life cut short, we learned later, by an undetected heart defect. 
I was completely unprepared to serve as grief counselor for the girl's parents and a camp full of campers
and staff, and the next few days were undeniably the worst of my life.

Late that night, we drove back to camp and walked wearily into our little house at the edge of camp.
Our wonderful sitter had stayed those many grim hours with David, our 8-month-old son.
While Bill drove the sitter home, I tiptoed down the hall to David's room.

He was curled up with his blanket, sleeping soundly in his crib.
I bent over him for the longest time, stroking his blond hair, listening to him breathe,
touching his face, and slipping my finger into his hand.
As I thought of the mother and father who'd just lost their daughter, my tears fell onto David's pajamas.
I'd cried many times in my 29 years, but this time the tears came from a deeper place.
They welled up from a new mother's heart. They came from a place of deepest love and fiercest protection.
 I wept for that girl's mother because now I knew the measure of a mother's love
and could better imagine myself in her shoes.
Losing my darling David was unthinkable, yet countless women have lost their treasured
children through accident, disease and war. And murder. 

That June day 28 years ago stands as the day I grew up as a mother
 and the day my heart forever changed.

I am praying that the mothers and fathers in Newtown, Connecticut
who have lost their beloved children
will draw near to God and know his comfort.
He knows and shares their pain for he, too, lost his precious son.

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