Last week, I was 400 miles from home, teaching a military marriage class in San Diego, when my bedside phone rang at 4 a.m.
The first words I really heard was, “Dad, she stopped breathing!”
My son was referring to the same daughter who had recently recovered from sudden and unexplainable multiple organ failure.
He went on to explain that he and his friends had been pushing their disabled truck on a dark country road when another car rear-ended them. The boys jumped clear of the car, but my daughter wasn’t so lucky. Her brother found her in the driver’s seat, slumped over the steering wheel, convulsing.
“But don’t worry,” he said, still in the voice of the former Marine, “I saved her with CPR.” He assured me that she was now breathing, talking and vomiting.
Now it was my turn to breathe.
“Dad! Are you there?”
“Yes. Oh, my God, yes. I’m here.”
“The paramedics just put her in the ambulance,” he added. “Mom is on her way.”
And so was I. Two hours later, while waiting for my return flight, I called for an update and learned that my daughter was getting a CT scan. The good news was that my daughter was talking, but it was what she was saying that I found troubling.
“God must want me dead,” she told my wife in a sardonic reference to her second brush with death in 30 days.
The 90-minute plane ride home gave me pause to think where her remark fit into her life. Our lives intersected 18 years ago when I opened an envelope that contained pictures of a blond-haired, blue-eyed, 2-year-old girl. The pictures that spilled onto our kitchen table were from the people who had fostered our first two adopted children. The letter was an unofficial notification that our children had a sister.
“Looks like we’re going to have another child,” I told my wife.
“How can we do that?” she asked, the type of question asked after an accidental pregnancy.
We were already struggling with many of the difficult issues faced by blended families. How could we find the patience for this many children? Neither our car nor our military quarters seemed big enough. How could our hearts possibly be big enough?
Within the next year, we returned to her foster home. It was during that visit that our hearts were captured. God had a plan for this one to join her biological siblings and became facetiously known to her new parents as “Little Bit.”
Six hours after receiving my son’s phone call, I was “wheels down” on the runway of my home airport in Sacramento. When flight attendants allowed phone calls, I got more breathtaking news.
“She’s being discharged,” my wife told me. “Just a mild concussion.” She then instructed me to come to the house where my wife predicted I’d find them all asleep.
As I drove my car out of long-term parking and onto the freeway, I kept thinking about my daughter’s sardonic conclusion that God wanted her dead. But having had a front row seat to her early years as well as her recent brushes with death, I remained convinced that God does have a plan for her.
With that in mind, I sang my rebuttal all the way home — “Au contraire ma belle fille. On the contrary, my beautiful daughter. Very much, au contraire.”
Norris Burkes is a syndicated columnist, national speaker and author of “No Small Miracles.” He also serves as an Air National Guard chaplain and is board certified in the Association of Professional Chaplains. You can call him at 321-549-2500, Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, visit his website at thechaplain.net or write him at P.O. Box 247, Elk Grove, CA 95759.