Equilibrium… Paisley, Part 6

It would undersell the truth to say that our Paisley had survived. She had passed through fire and death, to borrow Tolkien’s words, and without a scratch. She was perfect and whole in every way. Joy suffused us, and we felt a permeating thankfulness to God and to her doctors. She was an example both of Providence and of advanced Western medicine. She was our little miracle. But miracles are curious things, tumbling together the oil and water of the improbable and the impossible.


Our inward glow labored here and there to fully blossom, holding hands with an ebbing weariness, and tinged by hues of the surreal. Time had somehow dilated, or else the calendar conspired a falsehood: it was still February. She was just 26 days old. We found our home just as it had been. Our family was still whole. We smiled down at her as she slept in the same bassinet. Her affliction had left no marks, no wound, and no trace. Everything was just the same. Yet nothing was. Our thankfulness was one of intermittent tears and, for some time afterward, throbbing middle-night compulsions to her bedside, touched off by troubled dreams.

The mind very much needs to square the circle, to reconcile the unchanged child with the extremis of such a narrowly dodged fate. A range of gyration follows.


At odd moments, incredulity would overtake us. We asked ourselves whether we had exaggerated her jeopardy – perhaps she had not been in any real danger. However, attempts to downplay her plight fail. One need not look far to observe the horrific way in which meningitis dissolves its victims. Or how quickly it is all decided. No. It had all been quite real, and she had indeed come quite close.


So, how did it happen in the first place?

What we know is that Paisley had been infected by a fairly common bacterium, which many of us carry around to no effect. She contracted it from someone after birth. Perhaps us, perhaps a friend. Why it turns to meningitis in some cases remains poorly understood. Thus, a common bacterium had produced an uncommon infection. There are immunizations for meningitis – but not for her strain. And she had been too young for them anyway.

What if?

The conjunction of those two words can, with palpable tensile force, rend the mind into a certain kind of madness.

What if not for the medical professionals at the hospital? Or the advice of our after-hours nurse?

What if not for my wife’s tears that day?

What if we had never called the clinic?

I have played out the alternative in my mind. Here I refer to the world in which we do not call the nurse. Instead of encouraging the call, I offer my wife a reassuring hug and a steadying consolation that Paisley would be better by morning. In that world, we leave for the hospital twelve hours too late. In that world, my good intentions purchase an oblivion for Paisley.

The hardest part is that it had not been clear that Paisley was fighting for her life. We had not known the stakes. Yet it was the only toss of dice that will ever matter, on the biggest hand we will ever play. What if we had gotten it wrong? (I have since exchanged stories with someone whose parents waited until morning. The question, make no mistake, is live.)

What if?

As I say, a threshold to madness.


Paisley’s manner of infection left us somewhat gun-shy, so to speak. Over the short term, we kept her at home for several weeks. I readily admit that this was not entirely rational. A longer-term residual, perhaps equally irrational, is that I find myself deeply reluctant to hold or even touch the newborn children of my friends. My hands reflexively clasp behind my back, until I manually resume a more even posture. Their babies are beautiful, of course, and that is why.

So for a time, the older children and I went to church without Paisley and Mom. Our friends bubbled with cheer and hugs, and they waited for our littlest one with perfect patience. They asked after her and marveled at her story. And of course, I found myself all too happy to recount her extraordinary tale again.


April eventually came, when Paisley was at last to be baptized. I do not think there was a dry eye on that Sunday. My own voice caught when trying to answer the ritual question, “By what name is this child to be called?” She was a miracle to all of us. I mark her baptism as the time when our routine of life was finally restored.


Faith was the rubric by which equilibrium eventually returned – it provided a means to lay aside our unresolved questions and the disquiet of doubt. We saw the hand of God behind Paisley’s healing and recovery. The terrible jeopardy that hung on that phone call had hovered above our sightline. We did not understand the consequences of our decisions. We did not even know we were making decisions. But God did. His providence shepherded all the circumstances and causes: the tears, the phone call, the nurse, the children’s hospital, the playbook, the medical professionals, the friends, the prayers, etc. These were no accident. The plane had not been without pilot.

Doubt and questioning faded under the bright lights of our rejoicing, which was indeed done without ceasing. From the infinite other possibilities of what might have been, and from the sort of futures Paisley might have had, she was perfect. The medical team and our many prayerful friends had together intervened for our littlest one. Paisley had passed through the valley of the shadow of death. The ledger before us of what-ifs and debts owed was reconciled in thanksgiving to God, to the doctors, and to our prayerful friends.

What I needed, and would find, was a rooftop.

[to be continued…]

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  1. What I needed, and would find, was a rooftop.

    I don’t get this. Should it be understood already? Or is it to be explained in 3.2?

    BTW, what of Part 2.5?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. All of your children are beautiful. I love that picture. Paisley’s eyes are so bright and that smile….you’d never know she was ever in any danger at all.

    What ifs. They can drive a person completely insane.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. “What if? A threshold of madness. ” What a profound truth. You have a beautiful family.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I second what Ruth said — your children are beautiful and I love that picture. Your 3 youngest really favor you in that picture.

    What ifs. They fueled my nightmares and I was consumed with mind chatter..
    was God testing me like he tested Job and Abraham?

    My thoughts haunted me.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I have a picture of my oldest four at about those ages in that same pose.

    They are all just beautiful and Paisley looks like she could have never been so ill. I’m looking forward to the next part.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Thanks to all for sticking with me this long. I haven’t been terribly verbose in replying to comments, mostly because I’m still rather heads-down in trying to write the sections to come. Lot of elbow work, so please pardon my quietness. I appreciate all the support and encouragement. More coming…

    Liked by 1 person

    • I just wanted to reiterate something Zoe said. These writing seem sacred and so close to your heart. I’ve hesitated to comment for that very reason, only saying enough to let you know I’m reading and that what you’ve written is enough. No need to reply for my part.

      Liked by 2 people

  7. Sacred is exactly how I see these writings as well. And like Ruth mentioned, I have hesitated to comment, and had trepidations about bringing up my own experience with my daughter’s brush with death. But I shared because it was my way of saying that I understand, at least in part, and have compassion for what you and your family have gone through.

    Again, thank you for letting us in.

    Liked by 1 person

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