This time she screamed. I immediately pulled her close and lifted her face. Huge drips of bright red blood formed a bizarre Halloween goatee. She was Edvard Munch in hues of panicked pink. I scrambled for some ice, got Moses some pants to cover his Buzz Lightyear buns, and scooped the baby (covered in her lunch) into the van. The false sense of calm I was attempting to exude as we drove was punctuated by Sarah’s terrified refrain, “I don’t want stitches. I don’t want stitches.” My sing-song reply of “Let’s just see. We’ll just check it out” did little to change her mind.
After a wait in the lobby and a tag-team hand-off of Moses and JoJo to Dad, Sarah and I were left in a surgical room to wait. We played ‘I spy’, sang songs, told the three knock-knock jokes we know a hundred times, but sooner or later it came back to, “I really don’t want stitches.” I assured her that stitches really are great- that skin can’t come together by itself and needs stitches to hold it together while it heals. I prudently and calmly explained the benefits without describing the scarred mess that would be the alternative to treatment. There wasn’t any point having a talk with a frightened four-year-old about scar tissue or the importance her face will come to hold, or its power she will learn of, as she gets older.
At one point the nurse brought in a covered tray that I assumed had the sterile tools that would be used to pull my daughter’s face back together. I am sure the tray was covered to keep the tools clean, but served the dual purpose of keeping from sight the sharp and shiny instruments of help. Eventually the doctor came in. I held Sarah’s hand and choked out a weak rendition of ‘Five Green and Speckled Frogs’ while she screamed and he inserted a monstrous needle full of numbing agent right into the wound.
It seemed like he was good at his job. But more importantly, he knew ‘Baby Beluga’ and asked Sarah to join him as he stitched and led the chorus. Her trembling, gaping chin poked out of the hole in the sterile cloth and together they sang. He would wait for a pause to run the next loop through and there were just enough verses to get the job done. I watched and let the tears come since she couldn’t see me. I was witness to the work of the Great Physician, who met my worried child in her time of need with skill and song.
As I carried her out to the car, we reviewed the event.
“That wasn’t so bad was it?” I said, drawing from the tattered text of motherly one-liners.
“No. The stitches didn’t hurt at all,” she replied. “The shot felt like an airplane crashing into my chin. I didn’t like that. But the stitches weren’t bad.”
But they would have hurt if that airplane hadn’t have crashed right into your wound, I thought. And so I resolved to remember. From where I usually stand there is no explanation for most of what happens here. But from the sidelines I saw, momentarily, the workings of a good and gracious doctor, both to unflinchingly deliver what would become a salve and to sing and reassure while stitching.
“He heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds.” Psalm 147:3