Lessons from the sickroom

Lessons from the sickroom January 16, 2015

I spent most of last week with one child and then another sleeping on me, breathing hot sick-kid breath into the skin of my neck. I stroked fevered heads, and kissed flushed cheeks. I hummed disjointed melodies as they slept and I rocked – hour after hour cradling my congested sleepers and listening to them breathe. My back and arms screamed in protest, and I gently rearranged us, careful that they were not disturbed.

When I was young and pregnant with my first baby, I could never have envisioned the hours that I would spend curled up around the ailing and aching bodies of my children. I couldn’t have known the endless blur of days that would be  spent simply holding them as they sweated, snotted, and coughed on me. I’d never have imagined how many bodily fluids would run over me, or how I would move calmly and carefully with them even as the vomit pooled in my bra. I had no idea how much I could love someone so revolting, or how thankful I would be to be the arms to which they crept.

And so it was last week – noses wiped on my shirt, sweaty heads resting on my chest, aching bodies that only found rest in my arms…and even in the midst of the funk, I found myself feeling grateful for this even in the midst of the nastiness.

It is the one great blessing I’ve found in my eldest’s leaving for college – a realization that this will all pass away with blinding speed. I’ve come face to face with the knowledge that sick sweaty babies grow up and move away. There will be a day when they will no longer be better just because they’re in my arms, when they curl up in their own beds instead of seeking out the comfort of me.

I have learned with a certainty that there will be a day, not long from now, that will have me missing the clammy neediness of my sick babies. It won’t be long before I’m texting advice and dropping off soup, and I will yearn to know once more the weight of their 3-year-old selves.  A day will come when I’ll wistfully ache for the absolute trust in their 5-year-old voices as they call my name.


It is their total dependence which fatigues me, and yet I have come to know that there is a sweetness to it that is too easily overlooked until it is gone. Their gentle trust and faith in me is a gift of simple grace. It is so easily overcome by the physical realities of phlegm and vomit. It’s easily missed amidst the trials of fatigue and exhaustion. It’s hard to feel the tender mercy of being loved absolutely in the midst of exploding children and my own aching self, and yet it’s there – this perfect gift of love and grace if only we can learn to look beyond the revolting packaging.

It is in them that I find both great joy and sanctification. They are leading me to holiness, one snotty nose (and puke filled bra) at a time.

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