A Merry Heart Is Good Medicine
How my son continues to show us life is in the balance
For over a month, my eldest son has been away for the summer, about 300 miles from home. I leave tomorrow to pick him up from his Abuelitos’ house, making the trek up the grapevine through I-5, passing patches of cow farms and orchards, the fumes of manure creeping into the car vents each time.
He’s been gone by choice. He didn’t opt for swimming lessons this year, or any enrichment classes the parks and rec had to offer. His brother and sister stayed behind to try soccer and are loving it. We miss him but are thrilled he gets this opportunity to venture out there without his immediate nucleus at home. On our telephone calls, my husband and I learn that our son is indeed increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men. He’s carefully watching everyone he meets, surveying conversations, drawing connections to ours at home with those outside.
He’s thirteen and his Abuelita is terminally ill with cancer. He’s a great comfort to her, a medicine. Her heart grows merry and I’m sure, when he returns home, her spirit will be broken in his absence. He’s gone fishing and bike riding with his Abuelito, breathing the air below the gliding wings of birds of prey.
Sometimes it takes a deep reflection into the past to see what God’s direction is. We surrender the lives of our children for the Lord and when it finally comes into view, we stand amazed. One heart at a time, one merry heart, doeth good like a medicine.
My eldest son likes it when my husband and I recount the story of his birth. He was my first pregnancy, my first labor, and delivery—and my first encounter with mortality.
I was close to having a stroke. High blood pressure, anxiety, nerves, the whole thing.
I was going for a routine sonogram and the technician said my fluid levels were low and that my baby needed to be born that day. I naively asked if I could go home first and check into the hospital afterward and she looked at me bemused and said, No, you need to check in now.
So I did. In the lobby of the lab, I wept over my husband’s chest. I had my overnight bag ready in the trunk of my car as it was so close to my due date and I was ambitiously prepared on that front.
It was 2005, February 1st. Late afternoon. My baby was due on February 5, but…
God had me surrender. I left my dual life in the hands of doctors and nurses, some kinder than others. I filled out paperwork and was then induced with Pitocin via an IV as I was not dilating in the least. In this attempt to get the contractions going, there were only a few, but none strong enough. I was attached to a monitor that beeped endlessly, a reference to my baby’s heart rate. The labor took a while and I was becoming hungry. I asked the nurse if I could eat and she said I could have anything I wanted.
I opted for an In-n-Out Burger—a move recalled fondly with laughter, now years later.
After 8 o’clock, still nothing.
An entire night of this gloom and anxiety raised my blood pressure.
This wasn’t how I planned it to be. This wasn’t how I imagined it. This wasn’t what the books said would happen. This wasn’t the ideal.
Then dawn entered my cozy room covering my bed sheets in a soft yellow glaze. My mother and auntie had already left during the night and it was just me and my husband when suddenly a young OBGYN from India with jet black hair to her waist arrived with a smile and an introduction. She had two nurses with her, and said to me, Ready?
A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world. – John 16:21