A Burden of Trust

family story


We are there again, in that tiny bucket rushing down a river too fast to know where we are going or what is right in front of us. We are doing another horror ride in our beater of a car. Something very bad has happened. She drives, I hold a tiny being barely here. This reminds me of me when I was little, so sick so often. It was as if life didn’t want me, kept trying to push me away, kick me aside. Please don’t kick our littlest one aside.
“Tim come quick!” My wife screamed up to my office just moments before. She was in a place of terror, I knew immediately that some kind of bloody mess waited for me at the bottom of the hill. The last time I heard that tone I’d opened my foot up with a chainsaw, this sounded worse. I ran down to the car feeling like a plodding cow, Terry was there holding our little girl in her arms as her tiny body jerked limply, her eyes doing crazy rolls.

Something is digging at me,
digging in me,
through a rank permafrost
into that jelly grief.

My five year old son spoke like a ghost from the back seat of the car, motor running – “we don’t want her to die Papa…”, I grabbed her and started trying to coax her back into consciousness. Where was she? I didn’t know what was wrong, other than she wasn’t choking, I just thought if I could keep her here until she saw a paramedic, we had a chance.
She wasn’t that hot, but a fever had spiked quickly, her body couldn’t cool itself in her car seat. We learned later she was struck by a fever induced seizure. She vomited on me and started to cry – victory – she’s coming back, slowly.

Give me Mother now,
a knowing Ocean to hide in,
bring us life, not death.

The paramedics at the fire station are closer than a country ride in a city ambulance. She never left my arms, even after we made it to the ER, not for one moment. We stripped her down to a diaper and cooled her, rocked her, our little family huddled around her, singing John Denver songs. My sons voice was so strange, so beautifully frail in the antiseptic world: “almost heaben, West Berginia, mountain momma, take me home, countwy woad…”

Bathing her raw screaming radiant life,
loving her gorgeous ugly rage.

We are a shaking mess, Momma and I, while administrators and nurses follow their paths of business as usual. She was not in immanent danger, the nurse told us, even as her starved hands shook, pushing in a suppository, her red eyes, the swollen, blood-vesseled nose of an alcoholic eliminating the value of her comfort.
Then it was just the two of us following the x-ray tech, my screaming little love and I down the hall to get her chest x-rayed. The smile, making sure I didn’t suspect he would slide her tiny legs into a freezing metal box, wrap her in hard plastic with leather belts, and bind her, screaming, pressing her tighter, tighter, tighter with arms squeezed hard high above her head.

“Can her shoulders really take that, won’t they be dislocated?”

The only part of her not crushed was her screaming face and tiny hands. This is fucking medicine? Thats not my job now, this is my job – to hold her hands, to look in her eyes and tell her I loveAndItWillBeOK while she screams. My job now is never to leave, never break contact no matter how bad it gets. The trust in her eyes, her trust in me never broke.


Her trust once light
is forever now a crushing weight,
pulling me down beneath the temped waters
of all my mistakes,
all our medical promises,
all of our brutal, blunt efforts at perfection.

Her spirit finally left when we unbound her. She collapsed totally into me – gone. Somehow she carved out a moment of peace after hours of screaming. I let her stay where she was, did not want her to return to this place. I will protect your perfect little body while you’re gone.

I know now I cannot hold it alone,
I will wrap your trust
in corn husk blankets,
a bundle our family will hold sacred,
until you are a woman
and can carry it for yourself.

Horror has been working on me – making its way into my center. It is not an invader, it is not the enemy. Its getting at something though. The little one in me who was sick so much, who brushed with death so often, knows these waters, understands how to be with her while she endures the suffering of life. That child is not afraid, even when then man is.
It took longer to manage the paperwork than receive help at the hospital. Tadg and the baby and I waited in our little bucket in the calm waters of the hospital parking lot, starving, exhausted but glad to be out of the ER. There were many helpful people that day but in retrospect, the 10 minutes we spent with the paramedics at the fire house were the most helpful, most compassionate and in retrospect, all the intervention that was needed.
Our littlest one has returned to herself now, though perhaps her spirit has a little more space in it. Shamanic healing has helped her recovery from the seizure and the hospital experience, though she still wakes screaming at night sometimes. We are vigilant, convinced now more than ever that being a part of this family is a greater gift than any one of us could ever have imagined.
There were months I spent sick as a child, missing more school than I took. Those days at home with Mom were often spent curled up with our dogs. There were places of sickness I got to that medicine couldn’t readily help, thats when the pack really took care of me. We waited in the stillness that sickness can bring, just beyond the reach of my bodies pain, here but not here. They waited with me, until I could return, come all the way home. They held my trust.
I guess its OK to go back into those waters, they don’t really hold death for me, they just remind me of it. Perhaps the man can step aside and let the child lead this time.

I hold this one True Rose in my hands
she knows her perfection
is settled in her way.
I just have to stay right here
and not let go.

Photo Tiny Hand by Jo Amilia Finlay
From Flickr, used under 
a Creative Commons license

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: