Lidya heard light tapping on the wooden door. In her hazy sleep, she expected to wake inside the hut of her childhood days. Then her mind focused. She knew the reason someone would wake her in the middle of the night. Another baby.
“Manny, so nice of you to drop by at two in the morning. You’re the only person I could say that to and mean it.”
He chuckled and placed the bundle in her arms like an expensive bouquet. “She’s real tiny.” Sweat beads formed across his nose that he dabbed off with a blue handkerchief.
“Oh, she’s precious. Where did you find her?”
“Under a bush outside our village in the banana plantation. I heard the quiet shriek of a dying bird while heading home…I thought she was a pile of garbage.”
“So many babies.” She stroked her fuzzy black hair and kissed her forehead. “I better get her to an incubator. She’s too weak to cry.”
“You’re a special lady, Lydia.”
“No, just a servant of Christ.”
“Well, I think you’re special.”
She couldn’t help staring at Manny’s charcoal eyes lined with thick lashes and the scar etched across his cheek, evidence of the violence he lived through since he was a boy. God replaced the violence with love when a stranger brought him to a Watoto family. Lydia grew up in the same village after her parents died of Aids.
“Thanks. Not many men would care as much as you do.” Lydia winked before rushing off to the clinic room where other sick or malnourished babies were recovering. If they could survive, at age two, these Watoto babies would move into a village home and have a mother and seven siblings. If they could survive. That was Lydia’s job, to nurture the infants and toddlers, give the healthcare they needed, and above all—love them. She couldn’t get tired or give up helping…tiny lives depended on her.
“I’ll name her Grace,” she whispered and placed the palm-size infant down. Tears filled her eyes as she stuck an IV needle into the tissue paper thin skin. “Thank you, Lord, for leading Manny to this precious child. Please bless her and use her in a mighty way…and please give me the strength and energy to care for her and the other babies. You know how little rest I get. I’m not complaining, well, maybe a bit, or a lot, but could you synchronize their sleep so I could finish a dream or two?”
Lydia sat at Grace’s side, monitoring her bird size breaths, until her head nodded and she dozed in the chair. In her dreams, she could hear the beat of the tall drums, the rattle of ebinyege (ankle rattles) during a courtship dance, and the wind whistle of enkwanzi (panpipes.) Manny’s strong arms carried her to her room and he kissed her cheek. Then he left and Lydia slept in peace.
A few hours later, still half asleep, she rushed to the nursery. “What if I slept too long? Luke might be hungry; he’s so frail. Joey might be scared from another nightmare. Grace might be dead.”
Manny cradled two infants and rocked back and forth in a rocking chair. “When did you come in? I must have dozed off. Are they alright? How’s Grace doing?”
Manny put a finger to her lips. “Shh…don’t worry. The babies are all peaceful and well-rested. You’re the only weary one.”
He was right.
“Last night, after I left, God tugged at my heart to come back and give you time to rest.” Before he finished saying what he wanted to say, a monitor beeped.
Lydia jumped. “It’s Grace.” She ran to resuscitate the tiny girl. Little puffs of air and love pumped into her heart, but it wasn’t enough. She lifted the tape and tubes from Grace’s wrinkled blue body and wept tired tears.
“I’m too worn out for more heartache.” Lydia swaddled her in a white cloth, picked her up, and kissed her hollow cheeks. But as her face brushed against Grace’s warm lips, she felt the tiniest breath. She felt life. “Manny, look…she’s alive!”
Manny held Lydia’s hand over Grace. “She won’t let you quit…maybe someone could share your burden.” Lydia looked up. “Will you marry me?”
She nodded and peace flowed over her like a waterfall.
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9
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