If you want to feel all the feels, try helping a 28 pound 6 year old get to sleep when he is away from his mother who has flown to a land called Russia that he doesn’t understand. Living in shelters, moving in and out of stressful circumstances, navigating a world in poverty and uncertainty has knitted together a bond between these two that is iron-clad.
I was giving myself some space for a good dose of self pity that day. Hopes I had were not working out. People were disappointing me. My efforts were unseen. Tic, tic, tic…I had the perfect line-up of reasons to wallow. We have not had to do bedtime in years. Now, this kid was in our house and we needed to get him to sleep at a decent hour so that he could wake up for school the next day. What a pain! I was adding this to my list of reasons that my life was not fair. I sent child #3 in to do the task for me. She came out and said that it wasn’t working. I am pretty sure that I said something of a passive-egressive nature. Eye rolling was probably involved. I pouted my way back into the room he was trying to get to sleep in.
I am the sort of mom that usually gets kids to do what I say. I was all ready to just say it was time to go to bed and that he would comply because I had said so. I was not feeling patient, kind, empathetic, compassionate…
Then, I saw him. He barely made a bump in that bed. He turned his little head toward me and a tear rolled down his cheek. ‘Liz, I miss my mom.’ Well…yep…of course he does. Who wouldn’t. I asked him if he wanted me to snuggle him and he nodded his head yes. I climbed up beside him and held him. ‘I miss her so much my stomach hurts.’ ‘Why did she have to leave?’ ‘ When will she come back?’ ‘Where is Russia?’ ‘Is she in a house like your house?’
Shh shh shh, little one. You are safe. Your mom loves you so much and she will come back to you as soon as she can. You are here with us and we will keep you until she can come back.
My cold/self-centered heart melted. His tiny fingers wrapped around mine and we cried together. I cried because I was sad that I had gotten myself into that yucky place where sad morphs into entitlement and anger. It is so ugly.
He cried because his one constant, his only security, his greatest love was gone.
I tried to slip out when I thought that he was sleeping heavily enough…but no. He grabbed my hand and said
‘Liz, will you please stay and hold me?’
I think of that Taize song that we often sing at Lent that repeats ‘stay with me. remain here with me. watch and pray.’ There is a melancholy to the tune that can place a person right into what it feels like to want to be with someone when fear and pain are just too great to bear alone. We can all relate to that feeling. Whatever your stance on the Bible is, you can see why Jesus would have wanted his besties to be with him, to hold him, to stay…
(big segue warning)
I have a group of women that have stayed with me, remained with me through joys and sorrows. We met. We laughed. We trusted one another with our darkest secrets. We ached for one another when we felt pain. We got each other. We get each other. We call ourselves the Hot Dish Ladies. It’s ironic. All that stuff that I was feeling a few paragraphs up, all that wallowing and yuck is just fine with them. They get it. They are not annoyed by it. They say the right things. They remember the pertinent details. They stay. Here are some of them:
These are the sort of friends who want to go out on a frigid ( colder-than-Mars-kind-of-frigid) Sunday evening, after dark, to celebrate one of us who is about to enter her 40s. They want to know the things that most people would rather not get into. They want to be mad at the people you are mad at, sad about the things that you are sad about. They want to remind you of the story you told 6 years ago where you did that thing and you thought it was going to be a deal breaker but everything worked out ok. They want to help you see just how beautiful you are. They want to mark new beginnings, to share sad endings, to laugh and be laughed with because they know that it is better to do those things with people…not just any people…with these people.
It feels good to know that you have someone who will stay and hold you in those moments where that is the only thing that will make you feel better. Matvei knows that as a 6 year old. Biblical writers knew that. My hot dish ladies know that. Everyone knows that.