Edith was a late walker. So she was a year old when, to stand up, she braced herself on
our exposed furnace and severely burned the palms of both hands.
She is my first and only child, and it was all I could do not to drown in the sound of her crying on the way to the hospital. I kept it together through the long morning at the E.R. through sheer force of will, even when the E.R. doctor sent us to Shriner’s Hospital for Children for more specialized burn care.
Edie’s burns were significant and obviously painful. Both of her hands had to be
wrapped and the wrapping had to be frequently changed. The staff at the hospital were
wonderful and very kind, but, no matter how many comforting toys I plied Edie with, no matter how silly her dad acted as a distraction, as soon as her burns were unwrapped and exposed to air, her fight/flight reflexes would kick in and she would scream and squirm in absolute desperation. I tried to help the nurses once, and they told me, “You just hold her, we’ll be the bad guys.” They were practiced, and it never took long, but the experience would leave all of us exhausted and traumatized.
So I was wary when we explained that we were going out of town for a few days and the
nurses said, “Then you’ll need to change the dressing.” I didn’t even know how it would work. If I was changing the dressings, how could I hold Edie? If my husband, James, was holding Edie, how could he dance around like a lunatic to distract her? There just weren’t enough hands.
But, three days later, we found ourselves in New York with this seemingly monumental
task in front of us. I knew it had to be done, and I also knew that I didn’t want to do it. I waited all day, hoping the dressings would just change themselves. They didn’t, so just before bedtime, I gritted my teeth and laid out the bandages, ointment, and tape that I would need.
I stood in the living room doorway and looked at Edie, crawling around with her tiny
hands wrapped in gauze dirty from three days of playing, and tried to think of what to do. How could I do this quickly? How could I do this quickly with her trying with all her might to get away? How could I focus on the task at hand? How could I focus on the task at hand while she screamed in pain? How could I minimize the trauma for all of us?
James stood next to me and quietly suggested that we first say a prayer. I was surprised
and a little ashamed that I hadn’t thought of that right away. I gathered Edie in my arms and James prayed that we all might be calm, and that Edie would feel little pain. We said “amen” and I handed Edie to James. He held her in his lap, and I began to sing my favorite hymn, “How Gentle God’s Commands.”
How gentle God’s commands!
How kind His precepts are!
Come, cast your burden on the Lord
And trust His constant care.
I don’t have a strong voice, but Edie likes it, and I often sing this hymn as a lullaby. I
started to sing as I unwrapped the old bandages, the part I dreaded the most. As I started on the second verse and Edie’s hands were exposed to the air, she peered up at me, her eyes mild. She lay relaxed in James’s arms, and a spirit of peace pervaded the room. I relaxed and was able to work quickly. I finished and James and I looked at each other, astonished, over Edie’s head.
This experience was immensely powerful in its simplicity. I often find myself asking for
things in prayer—a financial windfall, perfect health, unmitigated happiness—knowing they might not come just as I want them, or on the timetable I’m certain I need. As I’ve gotten older and wiser, I’ve learned that answers to prayers often look different from expected. I’ve learned that the Lord knows what is best for me, and I trust that.
Perhaps that is why this experience felt so surprising and miraculous James and I went
to the Lord with a plea, and it was answered, in that moment, and just as we hoped it would be. And it felt, quite simply, like a miracle.