Ladies Trio

by Diana

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It’s true — I sang in a women’s trio in the 1980s. Very much restricted to our local church, but yes — I stood in front of the mic, in front of the congregation, and I belted out the low alto part whenever I got the chance.

My kids were elementary and middle school age, and I was trying to find my way to whatever might be next in my life — which, now that I think about it, seems to be a recurring theme for me.  At that point in time, the search led to both women’s ministries and worship ministries, teaching and organizing events for younger moms, and assisting with musical production and worship planning.

I’d done the mommy thing for a long time by then — my eldest was an early teen — and I was itching to get out of the house, out of what sometimes felt like the constraining role of caring for children, running a home. Our mid-sized congregation had a wide swath of artists of all stripes – graphic designers, writers, actors, musicians — and it felt great to re-discover gifts I hadn’t used in a long while. It was intoxicating and exciting and fun.

This particular performance experience began on Friday, December 18th, our 16th wedding anniversary. I had a rehearsal at church that morning for a song and slide show to be offered the following Sunday. Our 9-year-old son had complained of a sore foot for several days — two nights before, he’d played his French horn in a school concert and limped as he walked off the stage.

“What’s with the foot, Eric?” I asked, a bit skeptically. We actually owned a pair of crutches from someone’s sprained ankle and I assumed this was more of the same — no big deal.

“I dunno, Mom. It just hurts to walk.”

He went to school the next day, but had trouble getting from classroom to playground. So on this Friday, the 3rd day of pain, I kept him home from school; we had an appointment with his pediatrician early that afternoon.

After my rehearsal, of course.

I brought him with me to the church and he used those crutches to climb up into the balcony. As I stood in the pulpit with my singing partners, I could see him there in the shadows — crawling and climbing, not walking.  Finally, the rehearsal came together, and I gathered up my son and his crutches, took him out to lunch and headed to the doctor’s office.

Dr. Graves was a large, sturdy woman, wise, kind, and never alarmed by anything. My eldest had pneumonia when she was six, my middle girl some minor surgery when she was three — never a trace of concern with either of them. But this particular afternoon, I could feel her tension.

She took his temp, examined his legs and feet, and then she turned to me: “I don’t like the combination of the fever and the bone pain. I want him to see an orthopedist immediately.”

Suddenly, a big, black pit opened in front of me. This kid of mine, this rambunctious dreamer of a child, my easy-going companion, so kind, intelligent, sensitive — this kid was actually scaring his doctor. His un-scare-able doctor.

We saw the orthopod, who came in from an office Christmas party to examine Eric, and he immediately filled out the paperwork for admission to the hospital. And just like that, the big, black pit swallowed me right up.

Diagnosis? Osteomyelitis, an infection in the bone – the heel-bone, to be exact, caused by a good deed: he had helped his dad kick apart the metal jungle gym that stood in our backyard for a dozen years. Rusted and tottering, and outgrown by all our children, it needed to come down.

And now, we had a seriously ill boy. And it was our anniversary. And I had dragged this seriously ill boy to a rehearsal of mine, a rehearsal that was a part of my rediscovery process, my fledgling attempts to . . . what? Find myself? Get out of the house? Be noticed for something other than mothering my children?

Guilt came flooding in, and threatened to overwhelm me at times over the next few days. The admitting doctor guessed at the bacterial cause of this infection, choosing not to slice him open for a bone biopsy, and hung some powerful antibiotics intravenously. A scan showed a hole the size of a quarter in the bottom of his left foot, and we were told to expect three weeks in the hospital.

On the Sunday following that black Friday, I had a song to sing in worship. And I went, leaving my son and my husband to encourage one another in the hospital. We sang a lovely, madrigal type song, with lots of moving parts. And it was called, to the best of my memory, “Mary Was the First to Carry the Gospel.”* I got through the song and immediately drove back to my guys, weeping as I went.

I don’t think I’ve ever identified so strongly with Mary as I did that year. Watching a son suffer is beyond painful. It cuts to the marrow, makes you long to take the pain into our own body, forces you to look at yourself and what you hold most dear.

That year, I wondered if Mary ever second-guessed herself, if she wished she’d kept Jesus with her 24/7, if she worried that she didn’t pay enough attention to the signs, if she wondered maybe, just maybe, if she let herself get distracted from the best while in pursuit of the good.

Eric recovered well — they released him after just six days — and he came home with us on Christmas Eve. That song we sang on the Sunday before Christmas has drifted away from me now, but it’s impact has never disappeared, the questions it stirred are still being asked.

Am I paying attention to the signs? Am I distracted from the best while pursuing the good?

 

*I tried to find this song online, but the only one I found was very different, even though it has a similar title, written by the Gaithers, seventeen years after this event. Wish I could give you a link, but it seems to have disappeared. . .

BTW, that sick 9-year-0ld grew up to become a doctor himself. 

 

29 Responses to “Ladies Trio”

  1. Pam green November 6, 2013 at 9:34 am #

    Diana,

    This life story just goes along with so many in my life lately. Relish and pay attention to the moment at hand, otherwise we miss out on something very important and we can’t do rewinds. Patience and compassion don’t seem to be my strong suits, it’s something I have to keep working on. I tend to want to rush through life to get to the “good stuff” when all the while there’s some really good stuff happening in every day if I will slow down and pay attention. Saw a movie the other day called “About Time” . Liked it a lot and the message I got was to pay attention to the moments in each day whether their joyful, sad or perhaps painful. I failed on that count yesterday but today is a new day.

    • Diana November 6, 2013 at 9:37 am #

      Oh, amen, Pammie. Today is a new day. And you did not fail – you grew weary. Believe me, there is a big difference. Love to you.

  2. Leigh Kramer November 6, 2013 at 10:37 am #

    Oh, wow, Diana. Those questions you ask at the end are haunting.

    • Diana November 6, 2013 at 10:38 am #

      And they do haunt me, almost every day. But, in the end, it is a good kind of haunting, I think. Maybe even a necessary one. Thanks for reading, Leigh.

  3. Nancy Ruegg November 6, 2013 at 1:06 pm #

    I greatly appreciate your comment to Leigh, above. Those questions about paying attention, and pursuing the good instead of the best, ARE haunting. And yes, that is a good thing. God uses our past experiences (like discovering your son is much sicker than you realized) to guide us toward wisdom. Wisdom to set priorities with greater acumen, for example. And the guilt over our own mistakes can make us more forgiving of the mistakes of others. Thank you, Diana, for another meaningful story with valuable application!

    • Diana November 6, 2013 at 6:03 pm #

      Thank you, Nancy. Getting to wisdom is often painful, isn’t it? And then again, I’m not sure we’re ever quite there!!

  4. Kathleen Cooper November 6, 2013 at 1:33 pm #

    Enjoyed your story. Your story reminded me that I had done the same thing but I forget the situation. Been having trouble like that lately.

    • Diana November 6, 2013 at 6:03 pm #

      Sorry for the forgetfulness feeling, Kathleen. That’s not fun! But I thank you for reading and for commenting. I am grateful.

  5. Nic November 6, 2013 at 4:07 pm #

    Diana,

    I only want to say that just listening to your words and your comments that crop up on all kinds of different ‘stories’ is comforting. You make a safe place. Even though the comments are for other people, and the ‘stories’ aren’t specifically directed to me and I live on the other side of the world to you, I feel better for hearing you. I exhale. I am mum to a small boy whom I love fiercely but I care for him without my own mother around and the emotional void is breathtaking at times. Thank you for your wisdom; knowing what it is to be a mum but with the perspective and wisdom that sometimes only comes with the passage of time. Thank you.

    • Diana November 6, 2013 at 6:04 pm #

      Thank you, Nic. For me personally, at this particular moment in time, your words are healing and helpful. I begin to wonder sometimes if what I do out here is a gigantic waste of time and energy. Words of encouragement truly help – so I thank you.

      • Nic November 7, 2013 at 12:07 am #

        Diana, I’m seeing it as a God-thing. I very rarely comment on these things but felt quietly prompted and really emotional reading your post and writing my comment. Spiritual motherhood sounds very dramatic at 6.50am but I think God uses unexpected people to mother me at times when I’m floundering or just feeling very alone in this task of mothering. And your words always speak life even if you don’t witness the effect. What did I hear once…? That for every comment that a tv station gets from a viewer, they count it as something like 50 because most people don’t take time to log their strong opinions. So take my comment as 50, a bit like the loaves and fishes!

        • Diana November 7, 2013 at 12:12 am #

          I’m seeing it as a God-thing, too, Nic. And I thank you for following that prompt. And mothering is at the top of the pile of the gifts I’ve been given in this life, so if something I say feels like mothering to you, then that is a gift to me. It can be lonely at times, that’s for sure. But it’s also among the greatest of privileges life gives us. And you don’t have to give birth to children to mother, either. Nor do you have to be female. I’ve known some powerfully nurturing males in my life and some amazing women who neither married nor gave birth. I think THAT is a God-thing because. . . it looks a whole lot like God to me, this mothering business. And somedays, it really helps to remember that, doesn’t it?

  6. Amanda November 6, 2013 at 5:38 pm #

    You know this resonates with me – always wondering if I’m doing enough, doing it well enough, being present enough. This –> “She wondered maybe, just maybe, if she let herself get distracted from the best while in pursuit of the good.” Funny thing is, I needed to read it put exactly this way, exactly today. Thank you.

    • Diana November 6, 2013 at 6:05 pm #

      So glad you found it helpful today, Amanda. We all need these reminders, starting with moi!

  7. Elizabeth November 6, 2013 at 11:38 pm #

    Sweet post here. I could feel your mother’s heart for your son, and now, a doctor! Wonderful!

    • Diana November 6, 2013 at 11:41 pm #

      Thanks, Elizabeth. And yes, he is pretty wonderful, actually. As are both of my daughters and all of my children-in-law and grandkids, too. Not that I’m biased or anything . . .

  8. Patricia @ Pollywog Creek November 7, 2013 at 4:24 am #

    You’re an excellent writer, Diana, and I love reading your stories. And I agree with you – that’s a question we should ask ourselves throughout the seasons of life. I can sometimes set my sights on a goal so firmly that I miss something more important, more valuable, outside my tight focus. Thanks for this reminder, sweet friend.

    • Diana November 7, 2013 at 7:22 am #

      Thanks so much for these kind words, Patricia. Telling this story actually took a couple of tellings. It’s a good exercise to have word count limit!

  9. Deidra November 7, 2013 at 12:21 pm #

    When my son was in middle school, he came to me with a tic on his white t-shirt and said, “This tic was on me. I think I have Lyme Disease.” I brushed him off, choosing instead to watch something on television, and not wanting to believe something like Lyme Disease could touch our family. I was wrong. A few days later, my son was sick, and a visit to the doctor confirmed a classic case of Lyme Disease. I never forget that. Sometimes, I forget all about the good things I did as a mom, and focus only on the Lyme Disease moments and before I know it, I’m swimming around in that black hole you mentioned. So, I guess sometimes it’s the black hole that’s my biggest distraction, you know?

    • Diana November 7, 2013 at 12:51 pm #

      Oh, yes! I am very familiar with that big black hole. And if allow myself to get too far down there, I pray for the wisdom to look up. Because there’s always a blue sky, you know?. And thank God for Grace. Grace from on high, and grace from our kids, too. Not one of us does this gig perfectly. And that’s the truth.

    • Patricia @ Pollywog Creek November 7, 2013 at 6:35 pm #

      Well, if it makes y’all feel any better, I waited two days – two whole days – to take my son to the doctor when he fell out of tree on his arm. There wasn’t any bruising or swelling, but when he kept complaining, I decided I better check it out. Both bones in his arm were broken. I felt lower than a snake’s belly. For a long time.

      • Diana Trautwein November 7, 2013 at 6:38 pm #

        I have a hunch, we could collect quite a few of these stories! Thanks for sharing yours, Patricia. Somedays, I’m amazed my kids survived childhood. . .

  10. Kelly W November 8, 2013 at 3:57 pm #

    Beautifully told story, and one that strikes a deep chord in many of us. Thank you for the postscript… it was also encouraging.

    • Diana Trautwein November 8, 2013 at 4:05 pm #

      Thank you for these kind words, Kelly. And I try to include such postscripts when I write about ‘the days when . . .’ my children were smaller and I was a struggling mama, like so many readers are now. When you can’t quite see over the messy bedrooms, the slammed doors, the sibling rivalry or the endless fatigue of caring for little ones, sometimes it’s good to be reminded that everybody’s been there. We’ve all been little once upon a time. And many of us have been caretakers for littles, too. Hang in there, it does get better, it does get easier.

  11. Laura November 8, 2013 at 5:30 pm #

    Last summer that big black hole just about swallowed me up, Diana–when both the boys were hospitalized for emergency surgeries within a week of each other. Your post brought that all back. Isn’t it amazing how we remember that fear–I can almost taste it in my mouth. I love the parallel you draw to Mary. It does give us something to think about. I remember thinking, too, that I don’t know how parents of chronically ill children do it. And praying fervently for those families.

    • Diana Trautwein November 8, 2013 at 5:42 pm #

      I remember that time, Laura – and I recognize that big black hole so very well. And we now have a chronically ill granddaughter – 3 years old with juvenile idiopathic arthritis. Most of the time, it’s controlled with a powerful immuno-suppressant drug. But the once-weekly dose makes her sick almost every time. So we’re learning a little bit about the chronic end of things, too. None of it is fun, but there are gifts to be found. Sometimes long afterwards, sometimes not on this plane. Glad our boys are doing better now! But so sorry about Lucy Mae. Love to you, my friend.

  12. Carol J. Garvin November 10, 2013 at 4:13 pm #

    I recall blog exchanges with you quite a long time ago, when you had retired and were wondering about what was next for you in ministry. I think you’ve clearly found what you’re supposed to be doing at this time in your life… sharing your story in your beautiful unique style, and encouraging people in cyberspace that you would otherwise never get to meet.

    Those black holes crop up in a lot of life’s places. One of ours involved the suicide of our adopted daughter. We hadn’t known she had FAS and ADHD so for a long time afterwards we lived with the “if only” guilt. Thankfully the blue of God’s grace is always up there when we look for it.

    • Diana Trautwein November 10, 2013 at 4:19 pm #

      Oh, Carol! I am so very sorry to read about your daughter. And I thank God with you for the blue of grace above and around us. Oh, my. And yes, this does seem to be a niche for me right now and I am grateful. Thanks for your encouragement.

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