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Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep


One of my greatest pleasures as a mother is being able to partake in that age old ritual of tucking my children into bed at night. There is nothing more satisfying than cozying up with them in a chair and reading them a story (or two, depending on the amount of begging!). I love the sensation of being able to caress their freshly washed hair and snuggle their little flannel pajama bodies close as we read together. I like their giggles when we get to the funny parts and their rapt attention as the story unfolds. Their delight in a comforting bedtime ritual is a satisfying ending to a long day. And being able to tuck the warm blankets around them and listen to their little prayers is about as nice of a reward that a parent can hope to receive this side of heaven.

It's also the time of day when their hearts seem to be most open to sharing their deepest feelings. Usually they share their anticipation about the coming day, whether it's a field trip or wearing a brand new shirt or having their favorite hot lunch meal at school. I think it's interesting that children seem to always be looking forward, whereas we adults revel in looking to the past for our happy memories. Sometimes, along with the excitement of things to come, they share their fears and worries. Perhaps it's because they feel their most vulnerable as darkness sets in and they know that they will soon be drifting off to sleep.

Obviously, Ben and Kirsten are at the age where praying out loud with their mom at bedtime is considered "childish". But Sean and Devon are at that perfect age, the time of childhood that is just ripe for wanting Mom and Dad's attention--and I know all too well that this time flies by ever so quickly and ends long before I'm ready. The topmost prayer request is always Jaymun's recovery. Always. Devon is very focused on making sure God knows he's quite serious about Jaymun getting better. He has a beautiful and sincere faith that God is looking out for his baby brother. But the tricky thing about faith is that the essence of it involves trusting without seeing.

Devon had just finished praying for Jaymun one night. He looked up at me with those big blue eyes and said softly, "Mom? I don't understand--I pray all the time for Jaymun to get better. I prayed before he was born to be healthy, and he was healthy except for the cancer. But if I'm praying so much for Jaymun,why doesn't God just make the cancer go away? Why did he get born with this leukemia?"

And this little boy of ours who seems wise way beyond his seven years, is looking to me for answers that I don't have. I ask myself the very same questions every day of Jaymun's life. The chances of a baby being born with congenital leukemia are so microscopic it's staggering. We are told that Jaymun is only the third baby in Wisconsin ever to be born with AML. What were the chances that such a thing would ever happen to us? The odds of it just blow our minds away. Our Devon is trying to wrap his young mind around the complexities of that which we adults cannot even fathom. I refuse to even slightly crush his faith in the power of prayer. But at the same time, there is that very real, very sobering reality that Jaymun's life is not in our hands. How do I as a mother balance those two worlds and explain all of this to a boy who trusts that life is mostly full of goodness and light? 

The answer is--gently, ever so gently. I give you the following bedtime conversation, as best I can recall it:

"Devon, this is probably pretty confusing to you, isn't it?" I started. "But you know what? It's confusing to me too and I'm a grownup! Let's think about all of this for a bit, okay? Let's really talk about it and try to figure out what might be going on up in heaven."

At which point he giggled and settled back to see where his goofy mom was taking this conversation. I knew the point had to be simple, yet profound. And so I began.

"Alright, here's what I think," I said. "I think God knew that Jaymun was going to be born with cancer-"

"Because He knows everything!" Devon added solemnly.

"Right. He already knew before Jaymun was born that he would have this terrible cancer in his blood." I said. "And He knew that Jaymun was going to need a lot of help. He knew that Jaymun was going to have to be really strong to fight the cancer. He knew that Jaymun would need a family that could love him and take super good care of him because he would be sick for a very long time. And He knew that Jaymun would have to have a bone marrow transplant and that meant he would need someone in his family to be a perfect match. And I'm sure that God knew that Jaymun would need a big brother who would remember to pray every day for him, because a lot of people might forget to do that when they got busy. And God knew Jaymun would need a big family around him to keep him really happy so he wouldn't think too much about being so sick. And so what do you suppose God thought when He looked down from heaven and tried to figure out the very best family to send Jaymun to?"

Devon sat up straight and his eyes were enormous. You could see the lightbulb in his brain just popping away. He laughed that carefree laugh of his, the one we all adore so much, and bursted out, "I know, Mom! I know! Now I get it! God picked our family out because we were the best ones to take care of Jaymun! 'Cuz I'm the perfect match for his bone marrow and I never forget to pray for him. And we make him laugh and smile all the time. And you're a mom that knows how to take care of sick kids. And Jaymun was twelve pounds so that he could be tough enough to fight cancer. That's why we got a baby with leukemia!"

I understand that maybe God has His own reasons for all of this happening to our family. But so far, He hasn't let me in on them. Jaymun didn't come with an instruction manual on how to make decisions concerning his cancer (and don't think I'm not slightly annoyed with that oversight!). I don't want to be presumptuous in trying to read God's mind, but I have some little critters that need constant reassurance that their baby brother is in good hands. And this is the only conclusion I've come to so far: God knows our family and He loves Jaymun. If He has entrusted us to take care of this adorable little guy--even when we feel completely overwhelmed and severely incompetent at best--then for as long as we have Jaymun, we plan to make every day of his a happy one.

An upcoming bone marrow transplant and our family being blessed with a baby who just happens to have cancer.....

In both cases, we've got a perfect match.