The Miracle I’m Ashamed Of
I loaded the last suitcase into the trunk. My 11-year-old daughter Randi stood beside me, her gaze fixed on the small pond near the woodline behind our house. “They’re not coming. We’re gonna miss them.” It was only a whisper, but her voice was heavy, hopeless.
The still surface of the pond reflected the budding trees that lined its bank. Randi searched the sky, but it was empty, too. No sign of the two Canadian geese that, every March, landed on our pond in the early morning, swam all day, and then flew off in the late afternoon. It was always two geese, one day. Never more, never longer. I’m not familiar with geese migration patterns, but we chose to believe the same pair, Victor and Victoria, visited year after year. Their arrival was a sacred sign of spring our family waited for, but no one more so than Randi, whose heart God created to love all his creatures, great and small.
I closed the trunk lid, heartsick, because it was the last day of March, and the reflection in the pond remained undisturbed by the ripple of a “v” trailing Victor and Victoria, who should have glided elegantly across the surface days ago–heartsick, because we were leaving for Children’s Hospital where my older daughter Kelli was scheduled for a major surgery.
We needed to see Victor and Victoria. I needed the sign of spring, of hope and renewal, as I faced the fear of the days ahead. Randi needed a sign of routine, for something to be as it should be, because nothing else was. She worried about her sister but pushed her feelings deep, refusing to cope, as always. And she was anxious about our family, because after the surgery we would be separated for an undetermined number of days as I stayed with Kelli, and Randi and her dad returned home. Her family is her security, all together, within sight distance of one another.
But the geese didn’t arrive, and the surgeon was waiting. So we pulled out of the driveway, and I glanced at the pond one more time, praying for a tiny miracle. Nothing.
Two mornings later Kelli pushed the button on her morphine pump to numb the pain from the incision that ran the length of her spine, now braced by two titanium rods and nineteen screws. Although her lips were white from the pain, the clock insisted it was time to turn Kelli on her side. The movement would be excruciating until her back muscles, which had been detached to insert the rods, adjusted to the new position. I hit the call button and waited for the nurse to come help me with the dreaded task.
My cell phone rang, and our home number lit up on the screen. It was 7:30. I suspected Randi was calling to say good morning before she left for her first day back to school after her sister’s surgery.
“Mom.” Her voice was broken as she struggled to push out her words. “I don’t want to go to school today. I can’t.”
My heart clinched. The desperation in her voice was palpable. This wasn’t a spoiled child looking for an excuse to skip school. This was a rare display of suppressed emotion that had finally battled its way to the surface, and Randi was fighting for control.
But I was depleted. Any ounce of strength or empathy left in me had to be reserved for the trauma immediately in front of me. I couldn’t cope with a crisis at home. I didn’t know how to cope. Randi had never struggled with such anxiety before. So I encased my heart in armor and prepared a firm counterattack.
“Honey, you have to go to school. You’ve already missed two days.” I thought of the homework piling up, the math, ugh.
“Please, Mom. I can’t. I don’t want to see people. They’re gonna ask me about Kelli.”
Ah, the truth was exposed. My co-workers, her teachers, would innocently express concern, not realizing how deeply Randi was hurting. Although she was a master at hiding her feelings, Randi knew that would be impossible, and the results would be messy. I knew it, too. But still, I insisted.
“You’ll be okay, Randi. If someone asks about Kelli, just tell them she’s fine. You don’t have to say anything else. You need to go to school. You need to get back in routine.” As I heard my words, I knew I was the one who needed her to go to school, to get back in routine. I needed something to be normal, familiar, under control.
“Mom, please . . .” A sob stopped her words but the plea in her voice was communicated clearly.
The nurse entered the room. “Randi, I have to hang up. Go to school. It’s gonna be okay. Once you get there, everything will be fine. I love you.”
A deep sigh pushed through the phone. “Okay . . .” It was weak, but it was what I needed to hear. I ended the call with little satisfaction that I had convinced my daughter to do the right thing. Because I was pretty certain it wasn’t the right thing. She was at her most vulnerable, and she had allowed me to see it, begged me to protect it. But I had betrayed her in a way I feared neither of us would soon forget.
I moved to Kelli’s bedside, stood opposite of the nurse, and followed the nurse’s instruction. On the count of three, we moved in unison to change Kelli’s position. She grimaced and squeezed her eyes closed. The armor around my heart tightened as low moans escaped with her quick, shallow breaths. I brushed the hair back from her face and repeated, “It’s okay. It’s okay,” fully aware that for the second time that morning I was lying to my daughter.
My cell phone rang again. Certain it was Randi calling to make one last attempt, I felt my anger boil. I was exhausted. I had absolutely no control over either situation–the one in front of me or the one at home. I prayed I could restrain my tone, my words, when I answered.
“Mom, guess what!”
The unexpected joy in Randi’s voice surprised me. She didn’t wait for my reply.
“I was looking out the kitchen windows, looking at the pond, and guess what?”
Something in my soul shifted slightly. I closed my eyes. “Victor and Victoria came.”
“No, Mom! It wasn’t Victor and Victoria. It was a whole bunch of geese. Twelve geese! I heard them honking and watched them all fly in and land, all at the same time! They’re swimming now.”
I imagined how full our small pond must look with so many geese. “You’re kidding? Twelve? We’ve never had twelve.” Never. Just two, for one day, every spring.
I could hear her smile. “I know, right? And guess what else? After they landed, two turkeys ran across our yard!”
What? I’d never seen twelve geese on our pond, I’d never seen turkeys in our yard . . . but I had certainly seen this before. I let it fill me for a moment, and then I made sure Randi felt it, too.
“You know what this is, don’t you?”
Her voice was soft again, but this time her anxiety was replaced by awe. “Yeah. I know.”
It was a miracle Randi needed, and a miracle I didn’t deserve. In the lowest moment of her 11-year-old life, God showed His love to Randi in the way He knew she would receive it best…through His creatures great and small. And in my lowest moment as a mom, He filled the gap my weakness, my selfishness, had created.
In a span of ten minutes, Randi’s life and mine were marked in a faith-changing way. It’s not the fear or anxiety or betrayal that we remember. It’s the awesomeness of God revealing His presence so undeniably.
And since that day six years ago, never again have twelve geese landed on our pond. Just two. Always two.
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
We cherish those moments when God reveals Himself in such undeniable ways. Do you have a story to tell in the comments? Please share the blessing!
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