It was a simple, ordinary, comb. The black plastic kind you get in one of those ten-pack in the drug store. But, it was no ordinary place. A hospital bed where my dear daughter lay recovering from yet another surgery, the fourth in less than two months, from Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension disease.
“Do you see my comb over there, mom?”
“Here it is. Want me to comb your hair?”
“Would you? It’s all so matted and full of knots.”
“Sure,” I said feeling a bit hesitant remembering how, as children, getting all those knots out could be a not-so-pleasant experience and didn’t want to cause her any more discomfort.
“Here, sit on the bed. I’ll turn my head,” she said as we gently worked her long hair out to the side.
As I’d done when she was little, I separated the knotted hair into small strands and, with as much care as I could muster, began to comb. Her father sat close and watched.
“This okay?” I asked.
“Yes. It feels so peaceful.”
“Oh, good,” I said a bit surprised as “peaceful” was not a word I expected to hear. But, instantly, I felt relieved. And, as I continued to comb, a couple more times she said, “It feels peaceful.”
I so get that mama bear thing. This past summer we had a number of turkeys in our yard and every morning we’d watch one mama turkey, in particular, cross our yard under the wide-open sky with her four babies. I’d always hold my breath until they had made it across safely. One morning, just as they were about to reach the trees, a hawk suddenly swooped down intent on one of those babies. In an instant, the mama flew straight up, almost vertically from the ground, to attack the hawk. I was so amazed as I’d never seen a turkey fly. Babies safe. For one more today.
What I wouldn’t give to be able to fly up, unthinking, catapulted from that instinctive place deep inside of me and attack all the pain and suffering that has descended upon my beautiful daughter. “Take me!” I’d shout to the hawk. Let her wander safe, playful and pain free, for one more day, and another, and another.
But then I remember that hawks are God’s creation too – that it is, truly, in our moments of deepest challenge, trails and suffering, that the veil between life and death becomes most thin and we are cracked open to suddenly see, ever so fleetingly, the precious fragility of life. How in such moments, we suddenly know both the joy and the sorrow. All our hopes and regrets become palpable. Our caged laughter aches to break free. Our walled-in tears yearn to flow deep. The hawk brings it all and we know.
Still, just like the mama turkey, I would fly up, in an instant, as often as it took to fight for one more day. Just one more for my baby so I could sit close once again and work all those knots out of her hair…
With that ordinary, plastic, comb.