Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Nun with the Pink Habit

I'd always had a large hat size, so it wasn't a surprise that CJ had a larger head too.  But his was different.  CJ's head was shaped like a football - long and narrow...  I noticed it when he was born, but everyone figured I was a nervous mother and was exaggerating everything.  His eyes weren't lazy, they were deep-set.  He wasn't having seizures, he was chilly and just shivering.  His head wasn't misshapen, it just had to grow into itself.

Until they saw x-rays and MRIs.

They saw that his softspots had grown together before he was born, and if we didn't take a piece of bone out of his skull, his brain may not develop properly because there wasn't enough room - the skull was growing incorrectly and needed to be opened up.

CJ was 7 months old when he was taken in to surgery to open his skull to make it grow properly.  CJ's bio dad, S, met us at the hospital and walked with me to the huge double-doors that screamed "ONE WAY" to my fragile state.  I allowed the nurses to take my drugged infant through those doors, and though I knew he was in wonderful hands at the famous Children's Hospital, fear overcame me and I grabbed onto S's shirt and cried into his shoulder.

Someone took us to the surgical waiting room to wait the forever-long two hours.  My parents and sister had gone to the cafeteria, either to get a snack or to get away.  I hoped S would have stayed with me, but he couldn't handle the waiting - so he had several cigarettes outside, I don't remember him coming back...

I picked up a magazine and thumbed through the pages, trying not to cry too loudly - I didn't want to bother the other people patiently waiting for their own loved ones to come out of the One-Way doors.  I felt the eyes on me, asking each other, "I wonder what she's in for" as if I had been arrested.  I was in a room full of people, but I was alone, waiting.

"Is CJ's mother here?"  I was startled, did someone know my name?  How did someone know CJ?  What's happened?  Is he okay?  It hasn't been very long, Oh god what happened???  I saw an older woman dressed in a pale pink habit - obviously a nun.  Oh Jesus H, what's wrong...  Who is this person and why does she need to talk to me?
"Are you CJ's mother?"  I nodded through invisible tears.  She was in her 70s, maybe, gray hair peeking out from under the habit, a cross necklace around her neck, and gramma hands.  "I'm sorry my hands are cold.  It's chilly out there."  I smiled meekly, "I'm Emily."

She smiled as she saw tears welling up.  She sat down, "Mind if I sit next to you?"  I shook my head and moved my purse out of her way.  "I'm a volunteer here, your little boy is in surgery today?"  I nodded, "he's getting part of his skull removed so his head can grow right."  I talked like a terrified pre-teen, not like the senior college student about to graduate.

"I was wondering, would it be alright if I prayed with you?"
I leaned into her shoulder and let the tears fall.  I don't remember what she said or how long I was there, but I felt a sense of peace and calm that I hadn't before that moment.  I cried quietly and just let it happen.  I let my fear and sadness escape, allowing me to relax and calm myself.  I sat there for I don't know how long, probably just a minute or so, crying huge tears into this nice old lady's shoulder.

She didn't have to be there, and she didn't question me about why I was there alone, or why I didn't have a wedding ring on my finger, or why surgery was necessary, or what happened that made me an unmarried mother.  She put her arm around me and let me cry...  There was no judgment, no fault, no fear - only care and compassion for a frightened young mother.

I don't know her name, I don't remember her face, I don't remember the date or the actual time of the surgery, I don't remember what I was wearing or what color paint on the walls of the waiting room.

I remember her voice.
My Angel in the Pink Habit


Bruce said...

What a wonderful story, Emily. I'm so glad you wrote it so beautifully. Save these memories . . . Love you, Dad

Anna said...

I read this in reader the other night and cried tears as I pictured this whole story in my mind as I read it. I wasn't there. I was in college and I remember waiting for the calls from mom letting me know how things went. It was February.

How wonderful that she was exactly where she needed to be at exactly the right moment. Funny how that happens sometimes.

Advizor54 said...

Oh sure, make me cry while I'm at work. My nephew had the same surgery and his daddy's name starts with an "S", and so, you know, the 1st paragraph freaked me out a bit. But then I scrolled down, and with tears in my eyes saw your pictures and realized that you aren't my insane ex-sister-in-law, so at least your boy is in good hands.

And I love nuns like yours. They are very wonderful.

Sam_I_am said...

Isn't amazing how people show up out of no where when we need them most?

Mama Kat said...

Any mother would have been terrified during that time. I'm glad that woman stopped to remind you you weren't alone. What a sweet angel!

Maureen Morin said...

What a great story. It must have been such a relief for you. The power of prayer! What an angel.