By Corinne Smelker
She reached out to touch Luke’s hand – non-responsive now. The doctors said he was in a coma; the brain tumor that had eaten away at his brain had stolen all functions from his little body.
Jesus, it was not meant to be this way. When Dale and I dedicated this child to you at the front of the church I didn’t think you’d take my words to heart! People tell me he’s going to a better place, and they may be right, but his place is here, with me, with us! You gave him to us to be his parents, and now you want him back? Two years is too short a time, it’s not fair!
She realized she’d prayed these words repeatedly over the last few weeks. Ever since they’d received the news of the tumor she had hoped for the best, and feared the worst. Luke never lost his happy demeanor, even when the nurses poked him with needles the breadth of his arm, and he was sick from the chemo. Kierra and Dale had been there every step of the way, holding him, touching him, reassuring him and loving him. And now this. Luke was slipping away, and there was nothing she could do to stop it.
She rested her cheek on the thin blanket that covered an even thinner body and cried, "But God. We believe in divine healing! We believe you took not only our sin, but our sickness on the cross. We’ve done everything right, why aren’t you listening?" She recalled from memory the scriptures that she had clung to for the last six months, those that meant the most to her, like Proverbs 12:18, "The tongue of the wise brings healing," as well as Exodus 15:26, "For I am the Lord who heals you." She spoke out Jeremiah 30:17, "’For I will restore health to you and heal you of your wounds,’ says the Lord." and then recited her personal favorite, 1 Peter 2:24,"Who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness — by whose stripes you were healed."
"Lord. I have stood in faith. I have stood firm by these scriptures; I have not wavered in my faith. What more do you want of us?" Sobs racked her body and she clung ever tighter to the little hand that just a few months earlier grasped hers as Luke learnt to totter along.
Her other hand rested absently on her abdomen as she felt a distinct kick. Kierra was seven months pregnant with a daughter. It had come as a shock to her initially. They received Luke’s diagnosis, and a week later discovered she was pregnant. Under other circumstances they would have been thrilled with the news. They had planned on getting pregnant once Luke reached 18 months; but the joy was overshadowed by the misery of the diagnosis.
Dale, who had been in the cafeteria getting a bite to eat, stole back into his son’s room. His wife’s anguish tore at him, almost as much as watching his firstborn waste away. Medical technology was marvelous, but all it was doing was extending the inevitable. He reasoned it was a good thing right now, his wife needed to let go, and she wasn’t ready. He wasn’t sure he was either, but he carried more peace about it than she did. He wondered whether it had anything to do with the fact that although Luke was flesh of his flesh, and blood of his blood, Kierra had been the one physically connected to him for 40 weeks, while he stood on the outside looking in.
He stood behind her chair, and gently rubbed her shoulders, feeling them shake under his caress. This was one of the few times he had seen her break down; normally she was so "strong", so upbeat, believing to the very end for a miracle. This weeping was perhaps good. Perhaps she was coming to terms with the fact that in a few short hours all that would be left of Luke would be photos, home videos and memories.
And what memories! Dale remembered Luke’s birth like it happened yesterday. The nurse placed a blue blanket into his trembling arms. Up until then he wasn’t sure he was ready for fatherhood; he was excited, but like so many men, he had never been up close and personal with something so small! Luke was smaller than a football. One look down at the perfectly formed head, and the blue eyes squinched back up at him, and that was all she wrote. Dale fell in love at that moment, and that love overflowed to his wife as he recalled the hours of pain she endured to bring this tiny boy into the world, his world.
Kierra’s shoulders had stopped shaking now, and he heard the soft indrawn breaths one takes after a cathartic sobbing. Kierra raised her face, pale except for the red-rimmed, swollen eyes, and looked up at Dale. "Hi." He softly greeted her.
"Hi." Her eyes were drawn back to Luke’s still form. "The doctors said he is resting comfortably, the morphine they gave him has taken the pain away. Dr. Gregg said he would be surprised if Luke makes it to morning though." Fresh tears formed in her eyes and she reached up for Dale. He knelt down in front of her and held her as she cried once more. He could feel their daughter’s movement between the two of them, and when Kierra relaxed her grip on him, he guided her hand down to the kicks.
"We can’t forget Grace," Dale said.
"I know. I don’t. But having a new baby on the way doesn’t ease what we’re losing," Kierra answered.
"You’re right. But at least we have something to look forward to…" Dale’s voice trailed off as he realized that for the first time he had verbalized to his wife his acknowledgement that they had reached the end of the road in regard to Luke. He held his breath as he waited for her reaction. In the past when people had commented that there was no hope, she had railed against them, telling them to stop being negative, where there was life there was hope.
Silence filled the room, and Dale clung still to his wife. In an almost inaudible whisper he heard her say, "I know." He understood then that she had made peace, perhaps when he was down at the cafeteria, perhaps while he stood rubbing her shoulders. He was not sure when, but was thankful she had.
He stood up, and grabbed the other chair in the room, and pulled it over next to hers. Together they reached loving hands to Luke, and together they began to pray. Neither one was sure how much Luke heard, they understood from the doctors that hearing was the last function to go; but they wanted Luke to know they loved him, and were willing to commit him to the One who gave him breath and life in the first place.
Kierra and Dale’s free hands linked together and automatically went to her belly, where new life was waiting to be brought forth. In response to the touch, Grace kicked all the harder, causing Dale and Kierra to smile. Together they formed a chain, a family whose bond would not be broken, regardless of the events that faced them.
Corinne Smelker is the mom to five kids and wife of one husband. She is a self-employed writer and also the administrator for Prophetic Life Ministry, a Christian Ministry located in San Antonio. Cori also writes and posts daily devotionals to that site. You can contact Cori via the Letters page of this Magazine.
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