AKA 2020 Strikes Again
There I was standing on our lawn. The ten billionth day of 2020. 8:30am. Dressed in yoga pants and a t-shirt with a communion table on it that read, “Altars and Altered.” This might sound mostly normal, except for the fact that my right hand was wrapped in bloodied dish rags and my clothes were speckled with blood. I paced the yard, tears streaming down my face, and holding my bloody hand above my heart space as my EMT husband had instructed before he ran at top speed to take our children to daycare. As I paced, a young family with a cute kid in a stroller walked by. They took in the sight of me. I smiled and waved with the bloodied hand, “Good morning!” I said in an overly (scarily?) cheerful tone. “Uh … good morning” they called back. They seemed unsure if they should stop to help or keep moving. They kept moving – probably saying to themselves, “who’s that crazy lady?” Or “it’s 2020, seems about right”.
5 minutes before this, I had been the nice family out for a morning walk. Every morning, the kids and I to go for a walk around our town park and end the walk at daycare for drop-off. This day had begun like the others, but this day instead of going toward the park, we went to the post office to drop off a package. I was already a little frustrated. It had been a rough three-nager morning. We were late leaving, the post office was still closed, and that’s when I realized I forgot my daughter’s mask for school. So back home we went.
I texted my husband, “Forgot S’s mask. Meet us at the door” … “We’re almost there” … “We’re here!” He hadn’t responded, as he had gotten in the shower. I went to the back door, thinking it might be unlocked. It was locked. I knocked. When he didn’t come, I knocked harder.
That’s when it happened. One second I was knocking on the door, the next second my hand was through the glass. All of a sudden, blood and glass were everywhere and a terrible sound screamed from my mouth.
My husband came running from the shower. As he tried to pull on clothes and get to me as fast as he could, he fell down the stairs. Hobbling to the back door, he took off the shirt he was putting on and wrapped it around my hand, which was squirting blood.
My daughter and son were still in the stroller down on the sidewalk (Thank you God!) My son, 10 months, stared in disbelief. My daughter, 3.5 years, said, “I’m sorry mommy. I didn’t mean to do it.” (Oh, break my heart, little one).
It’s amazing how everything can change in an instant. A lot of what ifs lingered: what if I had packed a mask, or taken keys, or my husband had looked at his phone sooner, or I had knocked on the wooden part of the door and not the glass. WHY?! But none of that happened. It is 2020, after all, and anything can happen.
As I bled thru his shirt, my husband wrapped my hand in dish towels. Then, he took off running with the stroller to drop the kids off at daycare. He told me to sit down, but I couldn’t. I was afraid I’d pass out if I sat, so I paced the yard until he returned (scaring the neighbors in the process). He came running back with an empty stroller minutes (an eternity?) later, running and hobbling in flip flops that didn’t quite fit his feet. He would be in pain later, but for now he responded in his best focused crisis mode.
He drove me to the nearest urgent care, hoping they could help there, and we didn’t have to go to an Emergency Room (we don’t need COVID on top of this). Urgent care took me back immediately. As my husband attempted to follow me, the intake nurse told him he had to stay: no visitors allowed, due to COVID-19 restrictions. Patients must go in alone.
So many of my congregants have experienced this in these last 6 months. They’ve been dropped off by a loved one at ERs or urgent cares or surgical centers and walked in alone, while loved-ones pace, waiting for a call. Now it was my turn. Facing a medical emergency alone is yet another check box on the grand 2020 bucket list of doom.
Hand wrapped in dishrags, mask on my face, I walked in. In front of very kind strangers, I wept and shook and bled. These extraordinary heroes, who put themselves at risk daily, stood beside me, helped me breathe, made me laugh, and they patched me up.
24 stitches in all.
While the faces of strangers sewed up my hand, the faces of my loved ones were already at work. My church family fixed the door and cleaned up the bloodbath (This man is amazing and deserves all the thanks and praise available). My worship team was at work with plan B for Sunday (our first scheduled in-person worship in 6 months). My friend made plans to come help for the weekend. My parents rearranged schedules to come the 350 miles to help.
Yet the faces of my children told a different story – for their faces had witnessed the whole bloody scene. While I was at urgent care, we received a message from our daughter’s teacher that she was having a rough day. We went straight there. I gave her a hug and showed her how the doctor fixed my fingers with Band-Aids just like her booboos. That night she sat coloring and singing a song, “Mommy broke the back door, back door, back door. Mommy broke the back door, our church family fixed it.” She’s been both silly about it and worried about it. One night, she asked me not to touch her with my bandaged hand because she didn’t want me to get blood on her. So, I touched her to show there was no more blood. She felt the bandage and said, “Oooo its soft.” It’s hard to explain accidents, safety, and stitches to a 3-and-a-half-year-old, while also assuring her that there’s nothing to worry about.
My 10-month-old son, on the other hand, is out of sorts too. Although he can’t comprehend what happened, he knows something did. He’s been especially clingy to me – crying only for me, wanting only me to hold him, and crawling to me wherever I am. It’s really amazing how much fingers are needed to care for young children, whose favorite activity is to climb on me (or as I call it, Glom on Mom).
The incident happened a week ago Thursday. This past Monday, the hand doctor told me I needed surgery to repair a lacerated tendon and nerve on my right ring finger. This type of procedure is time sensitive and my surgery was scheduled for Wednesday. Monday night, I had a COVID test in preparation. Tuesday, I quarantined and frantically planned to be out of commission at both church and home. Wednesday morning, my husband dropped me off at the main entrance to Cooper Hospital. I walked in alone to have surgery. 4 hours later, I walked out that same door, loopy, in pain, with a huge immobilizing bandage on my right hand, and the ability to slightly move my right ring finger (modern medicine is truly amazing).
I am currently 3 days out from surgery and have a road of recovery ahead. I won’t have use of my right hand for at least 2 weeks. Which means, I am currently typing this one handed and I can’t be alone with my kids until this heals – I can’t change a diaper or pick them up alone or chase after them.
Yet, in it all, the Holy has been at work. The day of the incident, I was wearing my conference T-Shirt from the 2019 Young Clergy Women International Conference. I washed it the other day and all the blood came out (thanks OxiClean). The shirt reads, “Altars and Altered” and has on it a picture of a Communion Table with the Bread and Cup — the body and blood of Christ. What a symbol. For when my hand went through that glass, my own body and blood were altered, splattered, torn apart. Yet, our lives are always lived at the holy altar, always lived in the presence of God. For the holy lives in the messy, bloody, painful, spaces of our life – altering us, loving us, carrying us.
In this last week, the holy has shown up when we needed it most, carrying me.
I’ve spent the last few days sleeping and watching Netflix. I can’t remember the last time I got to truly rest. Actually rest. Actually sleep. It took anesthesia and pain meds to get this pastor mama to get some sleep in 2020 – not the way I would’ve wanted, but I’ll take what I can get. Holy rest.
I am thankful that doors discriminate against left-handed people, such as myself. Since doorknobs are on the right, this lefty was forced to knock righthanded and injure my non-dominate hand. Holy hands.
I am thankful for people. To my parents, who rearranged everything to be here and take care of our children so I can rest. To friends, who talked me off a ledge while I was alone awaiting stitches and surgery. To church family who cooked meals, dropped off cupcakes, and took on leadership. To friends who sent flowers, one-handed gifts, and bags of candy. To family, friends, church family, and pastor colleagues who prayed and checked in and sent messages and left voicemails. You are my people, my cloud of witnesses. Holy people.
So next time you see a crazy woman pacing her yard with a bloody hand on a random Thursday morning, maybe go check on her – she’s not okay. In 2020, none of us are okay. But we are all not okay together, and that makes all the difference.