It’s 3 a.m., and I pull my chair as close to his bed as I can. I will fall asleep next to him — the boy tethered to breath and food and medicine by tubes and whirring machines.
And all of it is whirring. All of life is whirring.
I slip my hand through the guard-rail of his hospital bed, for I want him to know that Aunt Jennifer is here. I have not left him. He is not alone. Never alone. Never, ever alone.
He is 17 now — almost a man — but I can’t help it: I rub my hands through his hair and I sing him a lullaby.
My eyelids droop, and I hear his breaths coming in a steady rhythm. This metronome, it is a machine that puffs his lungs with air.
Outside, the rain won’t stop. But I have an umbrella. The Word is open on my lap.
I fall asleep with Scripture, open. Before I drift, I ask God for the letters of Life to lift off thin-as-onion-skin pages and fill the aniseptic air, a canopy for the boy. For all of us.
I am tired. I can speak words no longer. Holy Spirit, can you speak them for me now?
And it’s this verse that cries open to the ceiling: “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24)
But can we?
Can we rejoice like this? With pain and suffering and the darkness of a valley?
Can we rejoice? Can we be glad?
We sleep, he and I. Hand in hand.
I am here in his intensive-care room, so his mama can have a break. She needs sleep. It’s been so long for her, and I ache for her. I want to do something — anything — to relieve a bit of burden. She is my sister. I give her the only thing I can think of: Time. Yes, I will give her time.
I will be the watchman.
It was one week ago that so much of life was upended on an Iowa highway. Five teenagers were jostled and tossed and thrown from car to field.
And I wasn’t even there, but my mind can’t stop replaying how I think it might have happened. I wasn’t there, but I hear the crushing of steel, and I imagine the pain.
One teenage girl died. And four teens are reeling physically and emotionally. Two of them are my nephews — two boys belonging to two of my sisters.
I have so much love for them. And I wish my love could rinse away pain. Away, away, away. Please, dear God. Please???
I sleep at the side of a deep-sleeping boy. And I force the words out of my mouth before I drift off: This. Is. The. Day. The. Lord. Has. Made. I will say the words — even though the words defy human logic.
This — THIS! — is the day. This day. Right here. And we will rejoice and be glad in it. We will. We will.
Morning breaks. Daylight always comes. I awake. For every sunset, there is a sunrise. The Light always comes.
In the morning, I find my sister, and it’s a Sunday morning. We have church — just the two of us — in the ICU waiting room.
I tell her about the verse, the one that was open on my lap. I ask her: Can we praise, even in our suffering? Can we give thanks, even in our pain? Can we find joy and security, despite our circumstances? According to Biblical commentators, even Jesus, hours before the crucifixion, would have sung the Hallel (including Psalm 118) at the Last Supper.
He would have sung these words: This is the day the LORD has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.
If Jesus could do it, could we, too?
Yes. We rejoice. Not because of what is happening. But we rejoice because of the character of God.
“Lynda,” I speak as the sun rises over a hospital named Mercy. “This is the day that the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.”
Big sister holds my hands, and she nods. She finds the song on her I-Phone. She plays it loud in the waiting room, and in the middle of our pain, we praise Him. We do. We really praise Him.
We sing. It hurts. But we do it. We sing.
“Today is the day you have made.
I will rejoice and be glad in it.
I won’t worry about tomorrow.
I’m trusting in what you say.
Today is the day!” — Lincoln Brewster
The boy on the ventilator is Payton, pictured above in a blue American Eagle T-shirt. In front of him, in the white T-shirt, is Brennan, my dear nephew who was the driver of the car. He is a strong young man of faith, but he needs our prayers. (Please pray also for the families of Emily, Abby and Amy.)