Wednesday, June 10, 2020

As It Is In Heaven: Part 2

   "Where did you say the bottles of formula were?" the doctor asked as he searched in vain through the medicine room behind the nurse's station on the pediatric floor.
   "Now I know you Internal Medicine docs don't treat kids," Jessica, one of the pediatric nurses, joked as she moved over to help. "But even you should be able to find these."
   She reached into an unlabeled box behind a stash of infant diapers and immediately produced a couple of pre-filled formula bottles.
   "You'll need these, too," she added as she reached into a separate area to find the disposable latex nipples.
   "You do know how a bottle works, don't you?" she smiled as she handed him all of the necessary equipment.
   "I know just who to ask if I run into any problems," he responded as he returned her smile.

   The empty pediatric room smelled like a mixture of clean linen and baby powder as the doctor eased into a rocking chair sitting in the corner. Lydia, still wrapped in her police blanket, was close to the end of her stamina and totally off schedule, but she continued to show her previous courage in spite of all that she had been through. She suddenly seemed to catch her second wind when she saw the formula bottle and her glassy eyes opened wide in anticipation.
   "Hang in there," the doctor encouraged. "I know I'm slow, but we're almost there."
   He placed the bottle close to her mouth and she reached out instinctively to clasp the bottle on both sides with her little hands.  She guzzled the first bottle in record time and was halfway through the second when her eyes again grew heavy and formula began to drizzle out of the corner of her mouth.  He then gently placed the bottle on the bedside table and cradled Lydia in his arms as he continued to gently sway back and forth in the rocking chair. Her fingers soon found their way to her mouth and she sucked on them noisily as she grasped his little finger with the other hand and drifted off to sleep.  He leaned his head back against the rocker as the toll of the day began to weight heavily upon him as well and it was not long before the tranquil scene lulled him to sleep.

   He was awakened some time later by a soft stream of yellow light cascading through the opening door. Momentarily, Jessica's head appeared through the opening.
   "Sorry to wake you," she apologized. "I was just checking on you."
   "No problem," he responded, sleep still heavy in his eyes. "It's been a long day for both of us."
   Jessica slipped into the room and quietly pulled up a chair and sat with her back to the door. Jessica was a gifted nurse and he had always respected her, even though he did not get the opportunity to visit the pediatric floor very often. Especially in that uncertain situation, he found her presence very comforting and he began to respect even more the comfort that she undoubtedly brought to her patients and families. The light scent of her perfume was not an unwelcome addition either. She crossed her legs and placed her hands on her upper knee and he noticed, as he had on other occasions, that she wore no wedding band.
   "Just never found the right one," he had heard her explain to the other nurses on a previous occasion.
   She remained silent for a moment as she watched the young child sleeping. The doctor in return studied her facial features as her brow furrowed in concern over this little life that she hardly knew.
   "I heard her mother didn't make it."
   The Doctor shook his head.
   "What will you do, now?" she whispered.
   "I'm not sure," he responded. "I guess the best answer would be that I'll do whatever is in her best interest. There's just so much that I don't know. I'll get some information from the authorities tomorrow and see if a case worker was involved or something like that. That way I can make a better decision."
   The nurse nodded with understanding.
   "Do you work tomorrow? Or, I guess it would be better to ask if you work today now that I look at the time."
   "Thankfully, no. I have the next couple of days off, which I'll need to figure all of this out."
   "It's almost morning now," Jessica reminded him. "We don't need this room now, so just stay here with Lydia. Before you leave tomorrow, remind me and I'll give you an older portable crib that we don't need  anymore. You can keep it for as long as you need it."
   "Thank you."
   "Anytime. I'll let you both get some rest."
   As quietly as before, Jessica silently left the room, the soft stream of yellow light disappearing as the door closed behind her.

   The bright morning sun caused Lydia to squint as the pair crossed the hospital parking lot the following morning. Upon reaching his truck, he placed the portable crib in the bed before placing Lydia back in her car seat. She was understandably fussy after such a traumatic night but at least her  stomach was full.
   "Alright, little lady," the doctor stated as he finished buckling her in. "I wish I could tell you that your day today will take you back to some sort of routine, but that probably won't be true.  But, you will get to meet some good friends of mine while I sort some things out."
   Climbing back into the truck and starting the engine, he left the hospital behind and drove across town passing multiple schools and playgrounds as he did so. He glanced at them through his truck windows before glancing into his rearview mirror as if Lydia could see him.
   "Don't worry, I haven't forgotten," he whispered.

   Pulling into the familiar drive in the wooded suburb, he could already see well-known faces greeting him through the front windows. He pulled to a stop and hardly had time to step out of his truck before little feet pattered up to him. Looking up at him were two bright faces full of excitement almost as if it were Christmas morning.
   "Can we see the baby?" they cried in unison.
   "Alright you two," a stern but loving voice answered before the doctor had a chance to respond. "You kids give them some space. That baby is not some toy and she hasn't had the easiest of times recently, so let's back off."
   "Thanks for looking out for her, Jim, while I meet with the case worker."
   "No problem. I'm glad you called. It's the least we could do with everything she's been through. Listen, just don't leave her here too long, though, You know how Leigh is. You leave the baby here too long and she is gonna to want another one."
   No sooner had the words left his mouth than Leigh rounded the far end of the truck and looked directly at her husband.
   "I heard that," she said with a fabricated frown.
   "Puppies can only only relieve baby fever for so long," Jim responded.
    Leigh ignored the comment and looked inside the truck .
   "Oh my word," Leigh said as she stretched out her arms to scoop Lydia from her seat. "She's beautiful."
   Jim let out a long sigh.
  "Alas, 'tis already too late."
   The doctor chuckled.
  "Thank you all again. The bag in the back seat has all of her supplies that the hospital gave me and there's a portable crib in the bed of the truck. I'll be back as soon as the meeting is done."
   "I'll get the bag!" the oldest child exclaimed as they all leapt forward to quarrel over who was to help first.
   Driving away and seeing Lydia in his rearview mirror produced an emotion that the doctor was not expecting. Hardly twelve hours before then and he would not have even known who she was. Yet, even after such a short time, he missed her. She was too young to speak, and yet she needed no words to soothe the loneliness of the last year. He had not seen it before, but he, in fact, was not saving her. She was saving him.

   The case worker's office was near the police station downtown and it was about a twenty minute drive from Jim and Leigh's house. Arriving a few minutes early, the case officer nonetheless introduced herself and invited him into her office as she was not involved with anything pressing at that particular moment. He sat down in the straight back chair and studied the pictures of the case manager's family  arranged neatly upon her desk.
   "So, I've spoken with the officer that you met last night," she began after finishing the usual pleasantries. "And he has filled me in on what happened."
   She paused for a moment as she studied the man in front of her.
   "I'm just curious," she began. "Has anyone asked how you're doing?"
   He had not given the question much thought.
  "No," he responded. "But I'm alright."
  "What you saw last night was not easy. It has to weigh on you."
  "What I see everyday weighs on me," he responded truthfully but respectfully. "But it's what I signed up for. I cannot hide. Mankind has become my business, and I see it in all its ugliness."
  "You must have someone you can talk to?"
   He shook his head slowly.
  "I don't tell my secrets. No one would understand. And who would be made better by the telling? I can't bring myself up by telling others what would inevitably only sadden and disappoint them. About myself and others."
   The case officer remained silent.
   "People ask me sometimes why I tend to listen to melancholy music," he continued. "It's not because I'm depressed. It's because somehow it bridges the chasm between the hymns on Sundays and the devils that walk through my dreams at night. If only for a little while."
   The case manager let out a long sigh.
  "Are you a poet?"
  "You should give it a try. You express your thoughts beautifully. I see a poem in there somewhere."
  "I'm sorry. You asked me a simple question and I turned it into a counselling session."
  "Don't apologize. You've already told me a lot. Regardless of what role you end up playing with Lydia, she is going to need someone who understands the darkness. Someone who has walked through it."
   The doctor nodded. The case worker then opened the file on the desk in front of her.
  "Did Lydia's mother tell you anything last night?"
  "Not much. She had very little time. She only told me that she had no one to care for Lydia and to not let her be lost to the system. She told me how hard she had tried."
  "All true," came the compassionate response. "Lydia's mother had come through the blackest of places. All of her family was either dead or in jail. But somewhere along the way, she decided that she did not want to follow that same path. I believe it was right after she became pregnant with Lydia. So, she got a job. Began to save and was able to buy the car that was in the accident. Joined a little country church and, I suppose, found a family that she'd never had."
  "What about Lydia's father?"
  "Her mother didn't know who the father was. She had no idea where to even start looking. Like I said, she had just come through a dark time."
   The doctor pondered her words carefully.
  "So, you see, Lydia really has no one. It's possible that her father could step out of the shadows one day to try to claim her but that seems very unlikely, especially given the nature of the circle of friends that her mother associated with prior to her change."
  "So, as of now, Lydia would go into foster care?"
  "Unless someone steps forward, yes."
  "Then I step forward. I promised her mother."
   The case worker paused for a moment.
  "You need to give this some thought. With your occupation and the hours you work, will you be able to manage all of this?"
  "I won't be alone. And neither will she."
   The case worker nodded in understanding as she closed the file on her desk. The physician then rose to leave.
  "Tell me one thing," she asked before he had a chance to leave the room. "In spite of all you've been through, I sense that you are a man of faith. So, why would a loving God take the life of a girl who was just getting her life together? She was trying to do the right thing. Trying to give a new life to Lydia. So, while all of her unsavory friends continued unmolested in their pagan ways, she died alone on a deserted road."
  "She wasn't alone," he responded. "I was there."
   He paused, letting the silence settle for a moment.
  "I've stopped blaming God for the storms of life and started always looking for the hope that He always throws our way. I was on that road at that time for a reason. And Lydia was that reason."
   Lydia's feet were kicking excitedly in her car seat as he pulled his truck into the playground. Taking her out of the back seat, he placed her car seat on a nearby picnic table so that she could watch the other children swinging joyfully and sliding down the bright yellow plastic slides. She was mesmerized by the scene in front of her.
  "I see why your mother liked to bring you here. You love watching everything going on.You just wait until you're a little older and can actually play with the others."
   With Lydia's attention occupied, he began to scribble in a notepad that he had brought with him.
  "We have a sad goodbye to say tomorrow, Lydia," he spoke out loud as he continued to write. "But maybe we shouldn't see it as goodbye. This is not the end. I've been here before."
   Having finished his writing, he closed the notebook and watched the children with Lydia.

   Later in the morning the next day, the doctor dressed Lydia in an outfit he had bought the previous day and drove with her to a small country church about eight miles outside of town. He had called to find details regarding Lydia's mother's service and he felt that it would be inappropriate not to attend. The small brick building stood in a grove of pines which swayed gently in the morning breeze. A few cars were parked outside and he pulled in next to them. Placing Lydia on his hip and adjusting the small pink bow in her hair, he walked through the doors of the church and was warmly greeted by the only family Lydia had ever known. Even in such a somber occasion, there was joy in the faces of those who poured out their love on an orphaned infant and a widower.
   While Lydia was being reaquainted with her church family, the doctor walked to the front of the sanctuary where the simple casket lay, Lydia's mother clothed in a beautiful dress and with a face finally at peace.
   "I gave you my word," he whispered. "I won't leave her."
   He then drew a small sheet of paper from his pocket, the final product of what he had written with Lydia at the playground. He then moved to one of the attendants nearby and handed him the slip of paper.
  "What is this?" the attendant asked.
  "Heeding some advice someone told me recently. If you and the church feel it's appropriate, could you put this with her?"
  "I'll be glad to ask them."
   With a smile of thanks, the doctor then returned to rejoin Lydia and the rest of the church. Unable to contain his curiosity, the attendant opened the paper to read the following lines:

                           As the stirring of the morning breeze
                             And the scent of roses long past
                           So brief was your time with her
                             And never intended to last

                           But leaving the host of heaven
                            And as constant as the tide
                           You leaned on Me in the darkness
                            And I never left your side

                           Words left unspoken
                             And tears left undried
                           Both did I hear with an unseen ear
                             And wiped gently from your eyes
                           So, come to Me now
                            And rest from the agony of life
                           From the constant uncertainty
                            And never ending strife

                           Close your eyes, come and rest
                             To a place no poet can pen
                           For in only the twinkling of an eye
                             You will see her once again

   Lydia giggled as she watched a young girl swing higher and higher at the playground the following day. The doctor had brought his notebook with him once again and was scribbling down several lines as they surfaced in his thoughts. As his pen passed over the paper, he became aware of a shadow above him, temporarily darkening the page. Looking up, he saw Jessica's familiar face.
   "Didn't expect to see you here," he said with a smile. "Heading home?"
   "Yep," she responded. "I just finished up and was driving home when I noticed your truck. Couldn't resist seeing her again so I thought I'd drop in and see how things are going with little sweet pea here."
   She tickled the bottoms of Lydia's feet, much to the child's delight.
   "We're doing good."
  "Is that your professional answer or the truth?"
   He chuckled quietly.
  "No, we're really doing well. Don't get me wrong, we have a ton to work through and I'm sure we'll have our days. But we're going to  make it."
   She smiled and nodded in approval. Her gaze suddenly shifted to the notebook in front of him.
  "Are you writing poetry?"
   He quickly closed the book.
  "Uh huh. Well, if you were to decide to start, some would consider that a romantic quality."
  "That depends on how good you are at it," he responded.
   Jessica laughed.
  "Maybe so."
   She then stood to leave and straightened Lydia's blanket as she said goodbye.
  "Well, I suppose I'll leave you two to enjoy your morning and for you to continue not writing poetry. We'll see you around."
   As she turned to go, he suddenly felt something that he had not felt in quite some time.
   She turned to face him.
  "I'm off this Thursday and was looking forward to trying the new coffee shop downtown. If you can, I was wondering if you'd like to come along?"
   Jessica paused only momentarily.
  "Sounds good. I can do that."
  "Oh," he suddenly responded and touched his forehead as if forgetting something of utmost importance. "I need to tell you that I will most likely be accompanied that morning by a much younger woman. I hope that won't offend you."
   Jessica smiled as her glance shifted to Lydia, still enjoying the sounds of the playground.
  "I think I can handle that. See you then."
  As she walked away, the doctor opened his notebook and began to write once more, the sounds of the morning inspiring his thoughts.
  "So you will."

Friday, June 5, 2020

As It Is In Heaven: Part 1

The shift had been long and busy with more hospital admissions than the doctor could remember in some time. All of the patients who had been avoiding the hospital at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic were returning in droves sicker than ever because of that delay.  He was glad to leave the chaos and noise of the emergency room behind and gladly greeted the silence of the dark parking lot as he pushed open the side doors of the hospital. Although he was glad to leave the chaos behind, he enjoyed a love/hate relationship with it as the noise served as a distraction from the loneliness that often plagued him. He was never in a particular hurry to go home, as only more silence awaited him there. There were too many memories, and the death of his wife only a little over a year previously was still as fresh as ever.
    The night air was cool as the evening breeze blew through his hair. His truck was parked on the far side of the lot and the overhead lights reflected off of the dark paint. Reaching the vehicle, he opened the door, sat in the driver's seat and placed his stethoscope and name badge in the compartment between the front seats before shutting the lid. Pressing the ignition button, the engine roared to life and the headlights beamed across the mostly empty parking lot. He sat motionless for a moment, his hands gripping the steering wheel, before inhaling deeply and putting the truck in gear. The gate opened automatically as he approached it and he passed swiftly underneath, his brake lights soon disappearing into the darkness.
    The drive home was familiar and generally took him about twenty-five minutes to cover the distance. Many of his partners lived much closer to the hospital, but he had never disliked the drive as it had always given him the few minutes that he needed to clear his thoughts. The initial part of the drive was in the city and was well lit and only when he got into the more rural areas of the county did the artificial lights begin to fade and his headlights would stretch out to their maximum limits to illuminate the road ahead. Deer were plentiful and unpredictable at those hours and his greatest fear had always involved the sudden unexpected appearance of a large buck that desired to make itself a permanent fixture as a hood ornament. For that reason, he was never in a hurry on those isolated two-lane roads.
   Traffic on those roads at that time, however, was more unusual and so the single headlight beaming in his direction as he rounded a particularly sharp curve immediately caught his attention. The headlight was still at least a quarter of a mile down the road, but the fact that it was beaming at him from his side of the road struck him as unusual. Knowing the potential devastation of an intoxicated driver all too well, he slowed  his truck even further. However, he was surprised to see that even as his truck crawled forward, the single headlight seem to remain stationary. His foot pressed gently on the gas pedal and the engine hummed as he closed the distance for a closer look. As his headlights illuminated the scene ahead, he could make out the instinct outline of a single vehicle which had veered off of the road after leaving a long trail of rubber tire marks on the asphalt. The car had swerved across his lane and had impacted the trunk of an enormous northern Catawba tree whose white blooms had rained down on top of the immobilized vehicle. The front end was completely crushed, the windshield was shattered, and thin wisps of steam rose from beneath the hood.
  Finally realizing what had likely happened, the doctor pressed firmly on the gas pedal until he had fully closed the distance and then brought the truck to a screeching halt in front of the immobilized vehicle. Leaving his lights on for better visibility and grabbing his first aid kit, he flung his door open and approached the wrecked vehicle. He could smell the smoke from the wrecked engine but there was no evidence of an open flame. Turning on his phone flashlight, he quickly moved over to the driver's side of the car while calling out to see if anyone would answer. At first, all was silent except for the hissing of steam until his ears finally detected the faintest of voices. Shining his light through the driver’s side window, he could see a young woman pinned against the steering wheel. The car was an older model and was not equipped with airbags. The young woman had been wearing her seatbelt,t but the force of the impact had smashed the entire front of the car and crushed her against the steering wheel. The driver's side window had been shattered and he immediately put his hand through the open window and placed it on her shoulder.
   “It’s ok,” as he tried to comfort her. “I’m here. I am one of the doctors from the hospital. I'll get some help and then we'll get you out of here.”
   The young woman seemed less concerned with herself but instead was motioning toward the back seat.
   “My baby,” she gasped between labored breaths.  “My baby is back there.”
   He immediately focused his attention on the backseat where, amazingly, a young child remained safely secured in its car seat. In spite of all the chaos around it, the child was not crying but looked at the stranger gazing in through its window with curious, glassy eyes. There was absolutely no evidence of any trauma.
   “Is she ok?” came the labored question.
   “She’s fine, perfectly fine,” he responded as he returned to the front window. “You stay still. I’m calling for help but I’m not going anywhere.”
   He quickly placed the call, giving all the pertinent information and their location in the most efficient way possible.
   “ Hang in there. Help is on the way,“ he reassured her as he finished the call.
   “It was the deer,” she began to explain. “It was on top of us before I knew it...I swerved to avoid it, but...”
   “It’s alright,” he reassured her. “It wasn’t your fault.”
   He then focused his attention once again on her door. He tried to open it, not necessarily to move her but to be able to better assess the extent of her possible injuries, but the door was hopelessly jammed.   As he continued to inspect the door, he kept conversing with her, telling her about every mundane detail of his recent life in an attempt to keep her attention focused on something else besides her current condition.
   “If it’s ok with you,” he continued as he realized that getting her door open was hopeless. “I’m going to get your baby out, if I can, so you can see her. I’m just amazed at how quiet she has been through all of this.”
   “She’s...she’s a good baby.”
   He then momentarily left the mother’s side to move to the rear window where the child still sat completely content, inspecting the chaos all about her. He examined her more closely this time and realized that she had remained completely restrained in the car seat and that there was absolutely no evidence of injury. He looked at her little head, followed by her arms and legs and saw nothing out of the ordinary. He was able to reach in and unbuckle her car seat straps without any difficulty, and, after having done so, he lifted her out with ease.
   “Oh my goodness, “ he said with his best baby voice. “Look at you. What a brave girl you are!”
   He then brought her up to the front window and knelt down so that her mother could see her. Immediately, the terror and uncertainty of the last several minutes washed over the young mother’s face as the tears welled and began to rain down her cheeks. Her breath was already short and her rising emotions only worsened that.
   “What’s her name?”
   “Just like the seller of purple in the Bible?”
   The mother nodded with a weak smile.
   As he spoke with her, the doctor noted that the mother's color begin to take on a more ashy hue as her breathing became more short, and labored. Trying to avoid drawing too much attention, he slid his hand down to her wrist and noted that her pulse was very rapid. He inspected the area around the driver again, but there was no evidence of any external bleeding.
   Blunt trauma. He was no trauma surgeon, but he had seen the scenario enough to recognize it. Blunt trauma from something like a steering wheel could be far more devastating than a penetrating injury as many times the blunt force would tear one of the large internal blood vessels. Often there was nothing that could be done and the young physician begin to recognize a growing sense of his own helplessness. The mother, without ever directly expressing her own concerns, seemed to be aware of her dire situation, nonetheless.
   “Listen,” she instructed as she struggled to express herself.  “I don’t have anybody... nobody.”
   She gathered her strength before continuing.
   "I've got nobody to look out for can't let her just get thrown to the system. I've tried so hard..."
   The doctor listened in silence.
   "Promise me...promise me you won't let that happen."
   A thousand responses flooded his mind. Why would she ask this of him, a man that she didn't know at all? He was in no way prepared or qualified to accept the responsibility; a widower himself with no children.
   "Promise me."
  "I promise," he responded quietly to her insistent request, if for no other reason than to bring what little comfort his promise could afford. She smiled and nodded in response. She raised a weak arm and stroked Lydia's cheek.
   "Hey there, sweet pea... you're going to be won't be alone...I just know it... "
   The mother's arm dropped as she no longer had the strength to lift it. Her gaze, shifted from her daughter to the man kneeling just outside her door. She was staring directly at him, but seemed to be focusing on something in the distance.
   "I...I think I'm going to be doesn't hurt anymore."
   The doctor held the mother's hand, the iciness expanding by the second.
   "Tell her...tell Lydia...tomorrow we'll go to the playground..."
   With utmost reverence, and still stunned by the whole experience, he slowly released her hand and sat back on the ground next to her car door, Lydia still in his arms. He remained there, even as the sounds of the approaching sirens began to reach his ears.

  He was only vaguely aware of the rest of the evening as the previous events seem to cloud his vision. As a physician, he was no stranger to death but this was different. This was personal, and he had been helpless. It was a realization that made him admire his fellow soldiers and first responders who dealt with that situation on an almost daily basis. As he held Lydia, he observed, almost as from a great distance, the paramedics pry open the driver’s side door and reverently remove the young woman. Per protocol, resuscitation efforts were started, but he knew instinctively that their efforts would be in vain. He was suddenly overcome with a sense of grief. He didn’t even know her name.

   “Was the baby hers?” a sudden deep voice suddenly shocked him back to reality. Standing I front of him was a local policeman, taller than him with a spotless deep blue uniform.
   “Yes,” he responded.
   “We’re trying to contact family now.”
   “She told me she didn’t have any. She was pretty adamant about it.”
   “Well, there’s always someone. Did you happen to see what happened?”
   “No. Everything had already happened by the time I got here. She was able to tell me that she swerved trying to avoid a deer when she lost control of the car. She was pinned inside and there wasn’t anything I could do. The baby, thankfully, was fine.”
   “So what do you plan to do now, Doc?“
   He took a moment to look at the small child in his arms.
   “I’m not sure. She asked me to take care of Lydia.  I owe her at least that.”
   “Well, that’s a very nice sentiment but we're still going to have to do this by the book. We can’t just go handing babies out to everyone.”
   “No problem there. My wife and I were approved for the foster program before she died. We didn’t have children of our own.”
   The office looked up form his notebook.
   “I’m sorry to hear that; about your wife.”
   “Thank you. It was a little over a year ago.”
   “Was it an accident, if you don’t mind me asking?”
   The doctor shook his head.
   “No. It was cancer.”
   The officer nodded his head compassionately.
   “Well, all I know is that she’s quiet right now, but that’s not going to last. It’s late and she’ll soon need a change, a bottle and some sleep before it’s all over.”
   “I don’t have any of those things at my house,” the doctor responded. “But I’ve got plenty of folks back at the hospital that could help me out, at least for tonight. Just clear it with the judge so it’s all official. Here’s my license. I’m sure he’s going to love you waking him up.“
   The officer smiled in agreement as he reached for his phone. While he gave the appropriate information to the judge, the doctor took Lydia back over to the smashed remains of the car and lifted her car seat through the back window. Opening the rear door of his truck, he reinstalled the car seat using his free hand. Soon, Lydia was safely strapped back in. She begin to whimper and rub her eyes as the lateness of the night and the trauma she had sustained begin to settle in.
   “Here’s you a blanket,“ the officer handed him the blanket and his license as the doctor snapped the last strap in place. “ Looks like you check out. We haven’t been able to locate any relatives as of yet so it looks like you’ll have her at least for tonight. You’ll be hearing more from the powers that be tomorrow, I’m sure.“
   Turning back to his truck, he draped the blanket over Lydia’s legs and noticed that she had begun to whimper even more as large tears begin to well up in her soft eyes.
   “I know, “ he responded compassionately. “I’m so sorry. I’m sorry that your mommy can’t be here for you now. I’m sorry that you don’t know me and all of this is very strange to you. I’m sure nothing feels right. Maybe it’s for the best that you’re too young to remember.  Someday, when you’re older, maybe we can explain this to you where it will make some sense, but I can’t make you any promises about that. There’s still so much I don’t understand myself. What I can promise you is that I won’t leave you. I gave your mommy my word.  I’m with you for as long as God lets me stay.”
   Tucking in the blanket securely, he gently closed the back door and then climbed into the driver’s seat. He then looked back to check the security of the seat one last time.
   "And tomorrow, I'll take you to the playground."
   The engine roared to life once again and, humming the tune to “This Little Light of Mine,” he turned his truck back in the direction of the hospital.

Independence Day

                                            Drawing by Martin-Lyn     An olive-toned hand, the right third finger adorned by her grandmother...