Aaliyah had to get her tooth pulled this week. She has a fairly significant history of terror for medical and dental procedures. Shots send her reeling and the dentist chair has her hyperventilating. So a few years ago, when Aaliyah needed a tooth pulled and a spacer put in, we were referred to a pediatric dentist, where they would use laughing gas to calm her down, and she could watch a cartoon while the procedure was completed. Mark took her in when her first tooth was pulled, afterward he reported that he was able to keep her calm but didn't provide much detail as to how.
As we drove to that same dentist on Thursday I shared a story with Aaliyah that I had been thinking about. The first time Mark ever took the girls in for immunizations he and the nurse ended up having to hold Aaliyah down to the table, but the second time he took a different approach. They went in to get their flu shots, so he asked if he could be vaccinated at the same time. He let Aaliyah watch him go first, he rolled up a sleeve and had the nurse plunge the needle into his gigantic arm, and he didn't even flinch. Aaliyah loved telling me that when they got home that day, "Megan, it was like he didn't even feel it at all!" When it was her turn to get her flu shot that day, he comforted her, but he could actually empathize with her because he had just gotten his. It eased her mind. After I told her the story, she told me she remembered, and then told me that now, all these years later, she knew my reaction of amazement that Mark didn't flinch was really just exaggerated. And I said, "yeah, you are right, your dad was pretty brave so I wasn't surprised."
We continued to drive and as we pulled onto the road with the dentist, Aaliyah shared with me how her dad kept her calm the first time. She told me that she was already anxious before even getting to the lot, her breathing was fast, and she begun to beg him not to make her do it. She pointed to the side of the road and said "Dad pulled over right here, he looked at me, put his hand on my knee and said 'Aaliyah, everything is going to be okay, I promise to make sure you are safe. I know you are going to do great, I love you my beautiful princess." He pulled back onto the road and finished the drive. I didn't have to calm Aaliyah on Thursday, she was ready, and she was brave. I think of how often my children need to be brave. As much as I need them to, it pains me to think about. You have to be brave to be the only kid at Tee-ball who doesn't have his dad there to watch, you have to be brave to start high school and know that he won't be there with sage advice or to scare away the boys, you have to be brave to let your mom leave you at preschool everyday when one day your dad just disappeared from your life. Let's be honest, when you lose one of the most important people in your life you have to be brave to wake up in the morning, to breathe, to love, to make decisions, to do anything. Most days we go about this life, as if it is routine, but boy there are days when all I can do is throw my hands up in the air and say "I am tired of asking my kids and myself to be brave." Bravery is too big of a burden for a tiny little child, but I see it in all of them everyday. If it weren't for my children I know it would have been easier to make different decisions in my grief, I am thankful that they help sustain me.
On the days when courage and bravery seem impossible I do my best to remember that The Lord is my strength, that in my weakness He is strong. I remind myself that Mark is safe, Mark is whole, Mark is not dead but he is made alive in Christ, and that same promise awaits me. God will work all things together for my good and He will do the same for my children.
"This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go." (NLT)