It was the perfect day for a high school football game. Brilliant blue sky, with a smattering of puffy white clouds dotting the horizon. Crisp, rugged mountains in the background. The late afternoon sun dropping behind the bleachers, giving fans a respite from the sweltering heat.
I couldn’t have asked for a better birthday present; sitting amongst wildly cheering spectators in a packed stadium, watching my son play football. Okay, it wasn’t exactly wild or packed, but it was a large crowd for a scrimmage game.
Our clan arrived early to snag seats near the 50-yard line. On the outside I acted calm, cool, and collected. On the inside my nerves were doing cartwheels. Each member of my family played their role flawlessly. My husband had the “proud dad” look. Our younger son displayed his “that’s-my-big-brother” cockiness. My mom, Oma, bravely handled the obligatory “oh-be-careful-don’t-get-hurt” grandmother part. And my dad, the veteran football coach, donned his “analyze-each-play-and-take-mental-notes-to-give-Shane-pointers-after-the-game” look.
Oma jumped into character at kick-off and anxiously asked, “where’s Shane?” after every play. And each time, I would point him out to her so she could relax, maybe just a little, until the next play.
I had just settled into my game-watching comfort zone when disaster struck. A player was down, and it looked bad. As a seasoned football fan, I immediately looked for movement in his lower extremities.
“He’s moving his legs. Thank God. It’s not a broken neck,” I reported confidently.
“Where’s Shane?” In my haste to analyze the situation, I had neglected my responsibility of finding Oma’s grandson.
“Ummm, I don’t see him.” As the reality of what I just said started to penetrate my entire body, someone removed the helmet of the player still writhing in pain on the field. Strawberry blonde hair. Shane.
“Should I go down there?” I looked to my dad for help.
“No. Just wait,” was his calm reply. So we waited.
Four men gingerly carried our son to the sideline. My husband and I clasped hands and started to pray.
When the paramedics arrived, I turned to my dad again. “Now?”
“Keep waiting. Wait until you’re called.”
What? Why? That’s my baby. I need to do something! Frantic thoughts crashed like waves in my head. But Dad said wait, so I waited. I trusted that he knew best.
When the call came, Dad said only one of us should go, and it shouldn’t be me. Only later did I fully understand the wisdom in his advice. I’m told that when my husband reached our son, Shane was in extreme agony. The paramedics had to move his leg in order to immobilize it. Shane knew his excruciating pain was about to get worse, and he was scared. His dad held his hand, and watched tears roll down his son’s face. His son was suffering, and he couldn’t stop it. He knew Shane had to endure this temporary pain for eventual healing. All he could offer his hurting son was his presence.
Because I listened to my dad and waited, even though I didn’t understand, I was spared the pain of watching this scene. And after helping Shane through this gut-wrenching experience, my husband motioned for me to come down to finally be with our son.
“Where were you Mommy?” were the barely audible words I was able to decipher through his quivering lips. For a brief moment, I was staring into the face of my baby again.
I tried to stay composed when I took his clammy hand in mine and gently reminded him that he had once told me to never come on the field or court if he got hurt.
“That’s for something like a sprained ankle -- not a broken leg.”
Although we wouldn’t learn until later that Shane’s leg was shattered in multiple places, the actions of the paramedics indicated that the injury was much worse than a simple broken leg. So, to help stave off the hysteria I felt building inside me, I lightly quipped back at him, “Oh. Sorry. I guess you need to be more specific next time.”
As I rode to the hospital in the ambulance with my son, I had no idea what lay ahead. But I did know I had to trust my Father, even if I didn’t understand, and even if He said, “Just wait.”
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