It’s a sound no parent wants to hear: the thunk of a five-year-old forehead hitting wood. My son was taking a running leap into the lower bunk, misjudged the amount of space, and made brief but powerful contact with the edge of the top bunk.
There was a lot of screaming, a deep gash, gushing blood, and a sibling who was practically hysterical about what he thought was his brother’s imminent demise. My husband applied pressure to the wound while I called 911 for advice, simultaneously trying to reassure my other son and tamp down my own panic and fear.
These are the worst moments of parenthood, the moments when your child is hurting and you feel essentially helpless. You don’t know how bad it is, but you fear the worst—concussion, brain damage, bleeding that won’t stop. As you say soothing, confident words to your children, you are desperately trying to believe those words yourself.
And yet God was present that awful evening, in many different ways. God was there in the gentle firefighter who knelt down in front of my wounded boy, checked him out, and engaged him in friendly conversation. God was there in the other firefighter who stood back with a clipboard and chatted easily with my other son, distracting him from his fear and making him feel like he had found a new best friend.
God was in the skill of the ER doctors who put stitches in my son’s forehead, making the whole process so easy that my boy left the hospital saying, “That was fun!” God was in the kind, motherly neighbor across the street, who saw the fire truck and came over to make sure we were all okay. “I think I need a hug,” I told her shakily, and she gave me one. God was in the friends who helped me process the events of the evening and even helped me laugh at it all (“Chicks dig scars,” said one of them).
So now when I look at the pink and white line on my son’s sweet forehead, I remember a few things. I remember the terrifying thwack and the blood and the brother’s hysterics and my own primal, visceral fear. But I also remember that God was there, wearing many different faces, reminding me of the power of love and community when we need it most.
Thank you all for these reminders of God’s love and of our guardian angels. To Barbara, thank you for your comment about your son. He certainly was held by Jesus, Mary and his guardian angel. Thanks for sharing it with us.
I’m reading this on what would have been my son’s 45th birthday. He died from meningitis 18 years ago. It reminds me that even at that dark time God was present in so many people who offered us prayers and support but most importantly it reminds me that he did not die alone but that God and his guardian angel where with him. Thank you all for that.
Thanks for the kind words, Fran. My boys do give me many opportunities to find God, both in good times and in bad. 🙂
Ginny, your ability to find, reveal, and share God is a gift. Thank you!
Oh wow, Mark, I’m so glad it all ended okay. I was holding my breath reading your story and can only imagine how terrifying it must have been in real life. Thanks for sharing and thank you for reminding me to give a thought to the guardian angels. Somehow I always forget to think of them, but holy cow, my boys sure keep them busy! Blessings on you and your family.
I had to laugh when I read the title for your piece. As a parent, I know that feeling, and as an injury prone individual, I know my parents have known that feeling also. In fact, I had a similar experience this weekend. On Friday, I took the family rock climbing, and while setting up ropes and anchors at the top of the rock, I slipped and slid down the face of the rock, perhaps about 75 feet. With a sprained ankle, a moment of challenged breathing, and a badly torn up hand (that will heal by itself, thankfully), I was able to walk away from it. I distinctly remember looking over to my daughter immediately after I landed , who was in hysterics, on her knees crying and praying (she’s 9), while my son, 5, was energetically trying to reassure her that I was fine. What could have been a moment of panic was actually a period of calm for me and eventually for my family as well. A few minutes later, a police officer showed up, called paramedics, and cleared my wife to drive me to the hospital for a thorough exam. No doubt God was acting through each of them as well. Which is why I love the Ignatian Examen so much – now that I prayerfully reflect on that incident, I can see God in the details of that moment in so many ways, it’s almost mind-boggling. The emotions, the events, the reactions, etc.
And when I relayed the incident to our parish priest in confession on Saturday, he suggested I not only thank God, which my family and I had been doing frequently since the incident, but to also thank my guardian angel, who, he reminded me, was also with me that day. It occurred to me that I hardly ever think, let alone thank, my guardian angel, so I took the opportunity to do so, as well as to apologize for all of the accidents in my life (more than a handful being life-threatening) in which he helped me and I didn’t even recognize his effort. So don’t forget to thank your son’s guardian angel!