Broken Mouth, Broken World

A month ago my husband and I were hanging outdoor lights to adorn the screened-in porch. You know, the Edison bulb ones everyone’s been getting from Costco? Yeah, those. We also wanted to replicate the feel of the Parenthood set in our backyard.

The sounds of our four children frolicking around on the freshly constructed stone retaining wall and concrete patio filled the air. They were pouring themselves into characters with imaginative gusto that we as adults haven’t possessed in decades.

“Pass me a hook, does this spot look right?” from our side of the screens.

 “Pretend I’m a mermaid whose parents died and she had to build home in the ocean,” from theirs.

Chief Imaginer, our eldest child Marin, abruptly pummeled towards the concrete, appearing to break the fall with her face. Her flip flop had gotten tangled in the stories and stones and she lost her balance.

Freakin’ flip flop.

She let out a wail that made my heart stop; when she lifted her face, it was gushing red. Having been a nurse for almost two decades, my instincts are trained to remain outwardly calm in a crisis, but inwardly I panicked.

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While speaking peaceful words I wasn’t sure I believed, I tried to assess her. “You’re ok, this is going to be ok.” I could see her permanent left front tooth, (#9 I later learned), was not. It was dislodged, dangling and twisted in a pool of warm blood and shredded gums.

“Josh, call the dentist.” He disappeared into the house, white as a ghost.  “Okay, we’ll be right there.”

The dentist was in the office on a Saturday, and he’d directed us to come there. I stumbled, makeup-less and still in my p.j.’s, to the car with Marin in my arms. I held her on my lap in a bucket seat, her anxiety exacerbated both by the fact we were sharing a seat belt and the pace of driving her father had decided to embrace. I could see the focus in my husband’s eyes, his knee bouncing, his curled fist tapping his mouth to keep emotions inside. 

For the next twenty minutes, we hunkered down as families do, driving towards help and hope.

I’ll spare readers details of the two hour dental procedure that followed, but as I passed time with People magazines and bad Keurig coffee in the waiting room, I heard her cry out just once. She was “an ideal patient” as she earned herself a freshly centered tooth, stitches, and temporary braces to stabilize the injury.

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The Ride Home

The next two days were solemn. The injured lip swelled to Muppet-level, earning Marin a new nickname and copious amounts of pain medicine, concern, and care.

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Muppet Faces

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Still Smiling

Once she was stable, my husband and I sunk into darkness. The lovely 8-year-old girl that’d made us parents had been seriously injured on our watch. Before the incident, she’d remained mostly innocent to life’s evils. But now she’d been introduced to her own vulnerability. She knew. She’d eaten the fruit. There is pain and it will get you.  

And though we knew that on behalf of our children, we felt it now.

I can relate to Hippolyta’s last words to her daughter Diana in Wonder Woman: “You have been my greatest love. Today you are my greatest sorrow.” There is nothing  more gut wrenching than watching someone you love succumb to harm, to the brokenness of the world. It can leave us reeling for weeks and even minor traumas can linger on our souls.

Our recent incident is a blip compared to many circumstances: the Syrian war, the death of a spouse or child, a cancer diagnosis. But it was a small taste of how the suffering of a beloved is also my own.

When we are privileged enough to love, we bear the most exposure to the fear and sorrow of harm and death. But Love is also our only weapon against it. Being a parent takes constantly choosing to put our hope in God’s providence instead of the fear of suffering or loss. It’s only through the hope of his Love that we can ultimately look to the future in peace.

At this interlude in the story: the mangled mouth is better. The braces are off and the tooth has firmed up. But recently it was confirmed she has an abscess (infection) and will need a procedure to clean out the tooth after her current round of antibiotics are completed.  We won’t know for months if she’ll retain the tooth.

This painful chapter of our daughter’s childhood isn’t over and I’m becoming more aware all the time that I am not in control of it. Neither will I be of any of my loved ones’ futures, as terrifying as that can be.

I leave you with a prayer of holy release from The Book of Common Prayer:

“Almighty God, we entrust all who are dear to us to thy never-failing care and love, for this life and the life to come, knowing that thou art doing for them better things than we can desire or pray for; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen”

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2.5 Weeks After the Accident

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4 Weeks After the Accident

 

Comments

  1. Tears in my eyes- Soo true! You have a way with words. Sorry for Marin and you all! Praying it’s resolved soon. 1 Peter 5:10. Makes you lean that much more on the Lord when things are out of our control (which is really always), except we don’t go to Him when all is well nearly enough!

  2. Boy can I relate to your words, insights, and pain. God is showing you such truth Heidi and is using you to share that truth and encourage others. I can honestly say, after going through heart wrenching times with our teenagers, that God is faithful, He loves our kids immensely, and His plans are always good even if they don’t feel good in the moment. Thanks for sharing!

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