As a little girl, I was burned.
Pulled a hot cup of liquid out of the microwave, spilled it scalding all over my left thigh. White-hot pain. Mom raced me, screaming, to the bathtub, pulled off clothes, ran water, both of us and my baby sister crying… can’t remember the trip to the doctor, can’t remember anything except how much it hurt. How gross it looked every week, when they changed the bandages. How difficult to hobble around on crutches that hurt my armpits. How I was afraid my leg, all mottled white and red, angry-looking, would never look normal again.
And the fear remains. All my life I’ve hated burns. Theman with the burned face, a guest at a camp I worked at, permanently disfigured in babyhood from a truck accident. He was at my table, a guest in my section. I could hardly bring myself to look at him each day. I felt nauseous. The fear I keep pushed down, take it upon myself to move cups back from edges, to be the vigilant watcher of children around hot drinks…
Now I am a mother myself. And my worst fear, as a mother?
My worst fear.
It happened today.
30 seconds. That’s all it took. Ben was in the bathroom messing with the washer, watching it spin his blanket around and around, washing the suds rinse away his throw-up from this morning. It was important that it finish its cycle, lest the all-important blanket not be dry by afternoon nap-time…. And of course Ben, being Ben, turned the dial, stopped the cycle… my anger bubbled and popped. I raced in, grabbed baby,spanked his hand, pointed him towards the door, turned my attention to the washer…
He wandered into the kitchen, and in less time than it takes to read this, reached up and pulled my just-poured cup of scalding-hot tea onto the floor.
My heart stops beating. In a flash I know exactly what’s happened, and I’m already starting to cry as I flash to the scene, pull off bib and wool sweater, frantically feeling, looking, patting-- where, where, where? Belly? Hands? Face? Dear God, no… NO!!! My worst fear, my worst fear, the thing I’ve tried SO HARD to be vigilant about… the thing I dreaded happening to my children more than anything…
Where is he hurt? Where? Which direction did the tea pour out? Over his back, his front? Sobbing now, I race him to the bathroom sink, turn on cold water, get his hands underneath, still looking, feeling-- where are the burns? My own fears throbbing in my stomach, his face screwed up with crying, I’ve gotten down to the last layer of clothing, and it’s not even wet.
It’s not even wet.
His right hand looks a little red, that’s all. That’s all. Nothing. Nothing. NOTHING. Face intact. Belly dry and sweet and soft. Back unharmed. I’m holding him from behind while he stands on the stool at the sink, letting the water cool his hand. Ben’s crying is slowing, he’s starting to play in the water. Me, I’m still sobbing, gasping, trying to catch my breath, heart pounding.
Will watching scared in the doorway, says, “It’s ok, Mama, Jesus will help us… It’s ok, Mama…” Repeats grace. Speaks grace over me, over his brother.
Every time I rest my head on Ben’s almost-bare back, whispering thank yous to Jesus, whispering praises, Ben chuckles. It tickles. He’s chuckling! Me, I’m reeling. I’ve just seen my son snatched from maiming, scarring, unbelievable pain… just seen us escape by a hair’s breadth a horrible 2-hour ride to a clinic, holding a child in agony… just seen his precious little face spared from scarring disfigurement…
My world is rocked. I’m reeling from grace.
I check his hand-- nothing. Not even a blister. Just red from the cold water, that’s all. I turn off the water, let it drain away, sink to the floor, weak with relief, weak with grace. My tears start to ebb. Will comes for a hug, and we sit together, hugging-- and Ben wants to get up immediately and toddle off to play. He goes and gets his drink bottle, tips it up, grinning-- drinks grace. Drinks deep and long.
And I drink too, deep and long. Deep. And long.