The other night, in the wee small hours of the morning, I tiptoed into Sean’s room to check on him. I’m way beyond the days of checking on him 3 or 4 or 20 times a night to see if he is still breathing as I did those first several months of his life. Yet sometimes, something invisible gently stirs me into wakefulness and calls me to his room in the middle of the night to look at him.
Sure enough all was well. His little boy form, bathed in the amber glow of the nightlight lay peaceful and motionless.
As I turned to leave, I heard him whisper, “Mommy, will you lay down with me?”
“Sean, I didn’t know you were awake. Why are you awake?”
“Will you?” he pleaded with a desperate catch in his voice, “Will you please lay down with me? For a little while?”
“Sure” I said. “Move over.”
And so he did.
I should say here, that the bed Sean sleeps in is not really a big boy bed or even a youth bed. It is basically a crib six inches off the ground. It is so tiny it is straight out of The Three Bears and I am Goldilocks. If I contort myself just right I can snuggle up with him in this tiny bed. If I lay there much longer than 20 minutes, I can’t feel any of my limbs or walk upright the next day, but it’s a small price to pay, temporarily paralysis in exchange for snuggling.
I wedged myself in beside him. With his head tucked under my chin, he squirmed and squiggled and shifted until he had sufficiently pressed his bony backside into my tummy, just as he did in the days that I carried him in my body. He reached around for my hand and pulled it across him like a belt and then he wove his fingers between mine.
“Here’s the church,” he yawned. “Here’s the steeple….”
And then he gave up, too tired to continue.
Then, with his other hand, he covered our interlaced fingers. It struck me as an odd thing for a four-year-old to do. It was an old man sort of thing to do, this nestling of my hand, like a bird, into his two small hands.
In the thinning morning darkness, I watched him stroke and pet our clasped hands as he drifted back to sleep. I flashed upon that day in 2003 when I first saw his hands on the sonogram – tiny, shaky, translucent fingers reaching for the light of this world and then shielding his eyes from the harshness of it.
I thought of how those little hands reached out for me as he took his first unsteady steps. I wondered how many more times he will seek my hand. Before he won’t. Dear God, bless me, that I might always be there to hold his hand and steady him as he goes, for as long as he needs me.
Then I flashed forward to the appointed day when that one clear call is for me. And on that day, it will be my shaky, translucent fingers that reach for the light of the next world and then shield my eyes from the glory of it. Dear God, bless me, that he might be there to hold my hand and steady me as I go into that great goodnight.
In that moment, and just for that moment, I felt as though I understood something of eternity.
Finally his hands stopped moving. He had fallen back to sleep. I slowly extricated myself from the tiny boy and the tiny bed. I stood over him for a moment, praying over him, that goodness and mercy will surely follow him all the days of his life.
I never tire of looking at him.
I hobbled back to bed.