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 daughter lay recovering from yet another surgery, the fourth in less than two months, from Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension disease.
“See my comb over there, mom?”
“Here it is. Want me to comb your hair?” I asked feeling a bit hesitant remembering how, when she was little, getting all those knots out could be a not–so–pleasant experience and didn’t want to cause her any more discomfort.
“Would you? It’s all so matted.”
“Here, sit on the bed. I’ll turn my head,” and we gently worked her long hair out to the side.
And as I’d done when she was little, I separated her knotted hair into small strands and, with as much care as I could possibly muster, began to comb. Her father sat close.
“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’d 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, catapulted from that instinctive place deep inside of me, and attack all the pain and suffering that has descended upon my beautiful daughter. Like the mama turkey, I’d shout, “Take me!” Just 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’s truly been in my most desperate challenges, trials and suffering, that the veil between life and death has become most thin and I’m cracked open to suddenly see, ever so fleetingly, the precious fragility of life. How in such moments, I suddenly feel both the joy and sorrow, no inseparable. All my hopes, regrets, become palpable. My caged laughter aches to shatter the wind. My walled–in tears yearn to spill out free. The hawk brings it all and I 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 . . .
one stroke, one strand, at a time.