If you have kids you might already recognize the scene: Ash with a Strawberry Shortcake boo-boo ice pack, bought in such a hurry it still has the plastic tag on it.
Yesterday I was at Target, with all three munchkins. And the two oldest ones were carrying on in the store as usual. Flitting and dancing and twirling about without a thought or care to how far they'd gotten from me or how inconvenient they were making it for everyone else to get around them. I love that they have imaginative spirits, and that they dance to some music that only exists between them. But I get totally annoyed – I can't keep track of them, and they need to learn a little self-control. It's Target, not our back yard.
So when I finally laid down the law and insisted that they return to the cart and stay out of the middle of the aisle, and they came running back to me, I should have anticipated it. Three feet before she got to the cart, Ash tripped and fell. Right on the slim, shiny bar at the bottom shelf of the cart -a hard metal whack that fit perfectly in the crook of her nose between her eyes.
This picture doesn't do the damage justice. She screamed and cried and within seconds the space between her eyes was swollen and bruising. We ran to the pharmacy for aspirin and an ice pack, and she sat in the cart bravely.
I started panicking. What if there was some weird detrimental vein in that spot? Here I was nonchalantly shopping for school supplies and maybe she was about to pass out, or had a brain trauma, or some crazy thing that I was now cursing all those urban legends for putting in my mind. I had nausea from the anxiety. I called my friend with the accident-prone child. She said I should call the doctor. Now my heart was a little bit quick. I called my friend and pediatrician. And as it turns out, God does care about the small things. Doctor Lisa was in the store. So a few minutes later, there we were. An office visit in the baby aisle at Target.
She's fine. Probably. We'll know after an official visit in the morning. But that's not the point of this story. In fact, I'm not sure there is a point.
Because several hours later, I received word that a childhood friend of mine was watching her daughter die in gut-wrenching, horrific pain from an accidental overdose of medicine used to treat her cancer.
I tried to convey it to James between sobs. Ten times the proper dose. Fried her kidneys. She's in excruciating pain. Her mother is watching this. Can you fathom it, James? We have to pray for their peace.
From her journal yesterday: "Sweet Lord have mercy on us."
And this morning: "Makiah's spirit left her body this morning."
She was five.
I panicked at a bruise.
What never-ending ache must these parents be feeling?
I don't have a sweet close to this post. Just this: I believe in empathy. I believe it's necessary sometimes to try to imagine someone else's pain. Not just to remind you to appreciate life or hug your kids tighter. In fact, I'd go so far as to say – if all you get out of someone else's hurt is a reminder to love your own life/family/blessings, you are missing out on some of what God would have for you. Not to torture yourself. But to be an intercessor. Honestly, I don't even know everything that really means or entails but I know it's part of God's calling for us. And it starts with empathy.
To weep with the hurting. To bear some of their pain with them. For our daily prayers to be only for someone else sometimes, that they might be blessed – whatever that looks like – be it relief from debt, joy in their day, or strength and peace for their dying daughter.
You don't know little M. I've never met little M. But I'm weeping in grief and prayer for all that lies ahead of them…and God would love to hear our prayers for them tonight.