The daughter was three, sitting crisscrossed in a slim rectangle of sunlight on a patch of hardwood floor next to her parents’ bed. She didn’t know what Mommy had experienced, only that she hadn’t been up for many, many days.
“Mommy?” the child asked, “Do you want bread and butter?”
It was all she knew how to make, the only thing she could give someone who might be hungry.
The mound of covers murmured an assent, a barely audible, “Mmm hmm…nice.”
In the kitchen, the girl placed a slice of wheat bread on a paper towel and smeared margarine on it, tearing gaping holes in the piece with the knife as she committed herself to her work. Chunks of ‘butter’ were everywhere, but she was proud, so proud of her effort, and confident that Mommy would eat it.
In the bedroom, Mommy’s long white, shaking fingers emerged from under the blankets.
“Thank you, honey,” came the nearly inaudible voice. And a few minutes later, “That was delicious.”
The girl returned to her spot on the floor and remained there. For how long, I’m not sure. It happened more than once.
It was 1976 and my mother had just had back surgery to remove a disc she’d ruptured while falling down a flight of stairs, pregnant with my sister. Eight months later, friends cared for my healthy baby sis at their house for awhile and I stayed home with my parents. We had some other help, but there were times when my dad was at work and since I was a quiet, easygoing child, my mom and I were left alone for a couple hours at a time.
I did my part. I kept Mommy company. I made her bread and butter.
Fast forward 44 years to a global pandemic and we’re all like kids making ‘bread and butter’ daily, sitting in one place, tending to the needs of those right next to us, sensing that perhaps something slow and important – like healing – is happening within, while also acknowledging the reality of clashing tensions between an urgency to proceed with life and paralysis to make that happen on acceptable terms.
While healing is usually hidden, there are options with pain. It can be put on display, or concealed until secrecy simply isn’t an option anymore.
Is this time of quarantine highlighting the wounds of your loved ones?
Is it shedding new light on the places where hurt is carried in your home?
How about some harder questions….
In what ways is the past influencing present anxieties?
And your deficiencies? Are your own imperfections and worries glaring too? If you are not a channel of peace to those you love, why not?
Hippocrates, the ‘Father of Medicine,’ said in his Precepts, Part 1, “Healing is a matter of time, but it is sometimes also a matter of opportunity.”
The Truth is, opportunity presents itself perfectly. As King Solomon wrote 500 years earlier, “There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens….A time to kill, and a time to heal…” (Ecclesiastes 3: 1,3).
A time has been opened to us for serious reflection.
We can turn the hurt over to the only One who can truly heal.
Now is an occasion to see grace right where it’s being offered.
But how do we do that?
We allow ourselves to soften.
We open our hands and look up.
We sit and listen, so we’ll know how to serve and to recognize grace as it appears.
Where was grace in 1976 when a mom was in bed, suffering at her literal core, her 3-year old on the floor by her side?
It was everywhere, saturating the room with sunlight, forming a bond between a daughter and her mom, and expressing love in small hands carrying simple gifts.
We can find it again today as we spread butter on bread in a million different ways, again and again.