Saturday, December 8, 2007

A Story You Didn't Know

This is a story about how I almost died.

This is a story about my earliest memory.

I was 2 and 1/2 years old, and it was Christmastime. Not yet Christmas. Advent.

I became sick, I got "the croup" and wound up in the hospital. I had terrible trouble breathing and eventually was put in an oxygen tent. But even that wasn't enough. At one point I stopped breathing, turned black (not blue, but black. That is how my mother tells it) and I was rushed to an OR, my little pajamas were cut off me and then the doctors, Dr. Johnnie and Tall Dr. Hicks, cut a hole in my throat and put in a tube so I could breathe.

They saved my life.

My daddy tells of praying fervently in the hospital halls. The hospital where I was born.

No one knew what would happen next, if I would wake up I guess, and if I did would I be brain damaged since I quit breathing.

Mr. and Mrs. Marsh, elders at our church, brought over an ornament, a wooden, hand-painted rocking horse. The rocking horse was hung on the railing of the hospital bed.

And I woke up, at some point. I pointed at the rocking horse, said "horsey," and they knew I would be fine.

My mom tells of practicing Christmas carols on the organ at the church, tears streaming down her face. The church where I would become a full member and take communion for the first time.

I don't remember any of this. Not a thing. I know the story because every year after that, we hung the rocking horse on the Christmas tree, and my parents would tell me the story again.

This is what I remember: being home, afterwards. I'm in the bathroom, singing, holding my finger at the hole in my throat feeling the air whistle in and out as I sing.

Angels we have heard on high...gloria in excelsis deo...

That's what I remember. A wound, and singing gloria in excelsis deo. That is my earliest memory. I know it is mine because I was alone, there are no photographs of this. Just me, and my wound, and my song.

I still have the scar on my throat. Right at the little "v" notch of my collarbone. People don't notice it, which surprises me because for me, at least, the scar is noticeable. Take that for whatever metaphor you will.

That was 35 years ago, coming up soon.

Gloria in excelsis deo.