“Sing my song, too,” he requests, scrunching his shoulders and grinning, tiny teeth shining white in the lamplight. “Sing it like Mumma does.”
I lean over his temporary bed — a toddler mattress centered awkwardly on the floor of my boys’ bedroom and piled high with mismatched pillows, borrowed stuffed animals, and a shirt that smells like her. Like home.
You are my sunshine, my little sunshine. . .
Peace sweeps over him like a linen blanket. He relaxes his shoulders and inserts thumb into smiling mouth.
I notice how easy it is now, four weeks in. The calming down. The tucking in. Familiar, sleepy routine of nighttime lullaby rounds.
The first week he was with us, he explained night after night that he was just going to wait up for her. Propped on his pudgy elbow, he’d fight drowsiness for thirty, forty, fifty minutes, head bobbing up and down, quiet snores betraying his ambition.
Beside him on the floor, I lingered, offering a comforting presence and praying the nurture in my heart would be enough to calm his restlessness and allow him to sleep in a room that must have seemed so far from home. A couple of those first nights, he sobbed and thrashed, refusing even to lie down until I lovingly bear-hugged him into submission, whispering through his wails, “I know you miss your mama. You have the best mama. You have the best mama.” Eventually, his resolve wore out and he melted into my chest, accepting a love that was second-best because it was the only love available in that moment.
Now, a month later, he is familiar with our evening routines — how the three big boys cram into the bathroom at 8:00, superhero toothbrushes flashing and crashing in digital cacophony like an exclamation point over another lively day.
He’s familiar with the order in which the boys receive their bedtime songs, backscratches and forehead kisses.
With the sounds of our darkened house — furnace blowing warmth into the autumn night, sighing dogs in the corner of the room, creaky stairboards my husband and I never seem to miss as we retire to our own bed.
He’s familiar with the promise that his mama will return as soon as the doctor gives the okay. “Monday at 4:00,” he repeats to himself, “Mumma is coming. She is coming back for me. Monday, 4:00.” He’s recited it through a month of Mondays, hoping it will eventually be true.
And it will be true, God-willing. It is true. His mama is healing, regaining strength each day. This may even be the week she returns home — the week our young friend will be delivered back into her arms.
But if it isn’t, he knows I’ll be here. I’ll be here every night with his song. I’ll be here with a backscratch and a kiss on the forehead and the second-best love he knows, which has proven enough to live on all these days.
Maybe it’s true for all of us.
These days, weeks, months have spanned the wildest of territories.
We are learning new ways. We are wondering. We are watching to see how things unfold.
We are counting down the hours to Monday at 4:00. Or Tuesday.
Who will give us hope?
Who will keep us safe?
We replay the events of the year in our beds at night and dream of solutions to the world’s problems — solutions that seem impossible, or improbable, at best.
We see the faces of the orphans and wonder if they are still waiting for their own Mondays at 4:00. Who will return for them?
We hear the shouts of pain in the streets and wonder in what form comfort will arrive. Who will whisper promises of belonging through the inconsolable cries?
We watch the death count climb, our weak and vulnerable claimed by an evil we can’t even see. Who will carry the enormous weight of this loss?
It must be us, friends. Let it be us. We have been called by our good and knowing God to do this for one another. No matter what exclamation point marks this day, or tomorrow, we must do this.
We must recite the hopeful words of Monday, 4:00, no matter how many weeks pass by.
We must whisper affirmations of hope and truth through wails of grief.
We must offer our songs even when the words are caught in our own parched throats and keep vigil over the ones who can no longer prop themselves up until morning.
We must offer whatever is available of ourselves to one another, hoping — no, believing it’s enough to live on.
We are tired, but still, we are alive. Even the winds of 2020 cannot extinguish the light that burns within us — the light that was entrusted to us before this whole mess of a year.
May we show up with this light beyond the polls. Beyond protests and rallies. Beyond social media platforms. May we offer not sad eyes and defeatist words, but something with substance. Something that lasts through all of the Mondays. Something like hope. Faith. Perseverance.
Let it be so.
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
-Holy Bible (NIV); Galatians 6:9
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