Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Eternal Moment #4: When Animal Crackers Became Manna

November 2002.
Fort Bragg, NC.

I am 37.

I was never supposed to be able to have a child of my own, but I'm about 2 1/2 months into my first and only pregnancy. The day I find out, I'm scheduled for a cancer biopsy. Ironically, that morning I'd had a terrible dream that the doctor told me I had to choose between cancer treatment and pregnancy. Then in real life, before my biopsy appointment, I have a blood test to make sure I'm not pregnant. Of course, I laugh at the whole thing, but then am stunned when I am told, "Not only are you pregnant, but you have a choice to make. These pre-cancerous cells may become more aggressive during the pregnancy. You can abort now and address the chance of cancer, or you can take your chances with the pregnancy."

Aborting, even if it means my life, isn't an option.

So I plunge into the world of first-trimester woes, whole-heartedly. I just don't know how difficult that is going to be.

I immediately become incredibly sick.

Sick, sick, sick, all of the time.

I can't hold anything down.

I ask my doctor, "Are you sure I don't have a tapeworm or stomach cancer?" He laughs at me."Nope. That's just the baby."

And so I lose weight, 15 pounds within 2 months.

I'm so weak that I can't stand for more than a few minutes, and even the sight of television commercials of food sends me over the edge.

I am existing on animal crackers and Gatorade, and I don't move from my home. As a freelance journalist, I do all of my magazine interviews by putting my laptop on my stomach and talking to people from bed. The rest of the time, I languish.

Then one day, she comes to my door.

She's a Bible study leader for military spouses at Fort Bragg, where I am attending a program called, Protestant Women of the Chapel.

She's soft-spoken and kind. Like my other eternal moments in life, the words she speaks to me are not that memorable.

But her actions are.

She rings the doorbell, standing in the North Carolina sun, her arms filled with boxes of animal crackers.

"I brought you something to eat!" she laughs. I'm amazed that she knew to bring me the only thing I could keep down.

She takes the recliner while I stretch out on the sofa and put one cracker in my mouth at a time, waiting for it to dissolve before I tackle the next one. She's patient. She doesn't quiz me about much except for how she can help me. She talks about the Bible study we've attended and brings me her notes from the lecture. She nods with sympathy as I regale her with tales of sleepless nights and endless days filled with nausea.

This will pass, she says. This will pass.

She visits me like this a minimum of once a week, sometimes more frequently.

When I finally clear the hurdle of my sickness, I meet other issues ... an infection of the heart in the 3rd month, kidney stones in the 5th month, receiving false news four times that my child is "dead," a false reading of Down syndrome during the 7th month .... and of course, the ongoing monitoring of the pre-cancerous cells, which are becoming more and more aggressive as each month passes.

She prays. She encourages other women to pray.

And all the while, she visits.

Each visit is akin to an eternal moment. Each visit, time stands still. Each visit, she steps into the sandals of Jesus and brings me peace. Each time she leaves, I feel more and more grounded, stronger, surer.

When the child is born healthy, when the pre-cancerous cells vanish, we hug and laugh at the miracle.

Have you ever met a kind soul who lavished so much love on you without any expectation for favor in return?

That's who this woman was to me.

Those animal crackers might as well have been Heaven's Manna in my wilderness.

And those moments .... they were eternal moments of extreme comfort and joy.

Tune in for Eternal Moment #5: Walking Around Wilmore ...


  1. Oh, Heidi, that's just how we are supposed to treat people, like they're valuable and precious. What a wonderful friend she is to you! Aren't you glad she found you??

  2. She was truly amazing! Thank you, Erin. If we can all be that to each other, the world would be so much brighter.