Quail Down!

I just finished feeding chili cheese Fritos straight to the mouth of a kiddo in a bubble bath while reading Calvin and Hobbes out loud. The facts are undeniable:

The Quail have fallen sick.

And thus, blog posts are late, any and all calories are granted temporary legitimacy, and now we get to talk love when the Mama Quail doesn’t feel awesome either. Maybe this won’t be deep. But hopefully, it will be appreciative, and, for your sake, short.

Sickness in a mitochondrial disease household is a nerve-wracking event. Mito bodies don’t behave like normal bodies, but even so, we have been really blessed and have avoided hospitals in recent years. I shouldn’t still be uneasy every time someone spikes a fever. I know. Old habits die hard… old memories die harder. We have learned a lot over the years, and being sick has become a twisted art form, a dance between pumps on continuous drip, alternating ibuprofen and tylenol, honey tea, cold cider, otter pops and whatever other liquid I can get dropped down the back of their sore little throats. The fevers don’t necessarily mean anything; they can get fevers just from being exhausted. And feeling sick is exhausting.

So as I type, every comfy chair and our lone couch is occupied under Quail, blankets, stuffed animals and pillows. The windows are open, and the cool air is refreshing (there is such a smell in a sick house, isn’t there? I cannot define what it is… but it is distinctive and I hate it). Benches and tables have been moved, and the snacks abound. Most of them go uneaten, but they are offered. Did you know it takes energy to eat? True story.

I know it is only a cold. A mito cold, but still, a cold. It is silly that I will sleep light as a feather tonight. They are too old for me to checking their chests at night to make sure they still rise and fall, and being worn out is not the same thing as retracting and needing an airlift in the middle of the night. Bonhoeffer once wrote from prison about how in Christ, nothing is lost; all that we have lost in this life is redeemed in Him, is given back to us in full, beyond any fullness we could know or imagine.

Even the bad memories will be redeemed.

In truth, I cannot picture what that will mean, what that will look like. Will I be able to smell the plastic of IV tubing and not hyperventilate? Or will all these memories just be mercifully gone? But even as I write that, I have to come to grips with the hard reality that those many, many hours and days and weeks spent battling with and for my children in hospitals and at home have made me who I am, for better and decidedly for worse. Am I willing to trade the “for better” to have less of the “for worse”? I am a silly creature… I envy the coolness of other mothers who, when their kids get sick, shrug and go on with their lives, who still take them everywhere because apparently it isn’t a big deal, who still sleep when there is coughing. Maybe it is less envy than marveling — I just don’t relate. I study these mystical creatures, and I try to imitate their mannerisms…

And then a Quail coughs. And I am exposed as a fraud who was just playing dress up.

The thing that has gotten trickier over the years is that whereas I used to have to exhibit preternatural calm so that paramedics would let me on the ambulance and doctors would take us seriously, now that calm is required for the Quail themselves — they are old enough to self-assess, to question, to worry. They know about death now. Calm is part of it — so is humor, and smiles that hit the eyes, and breaking out the “emergency” chocolate.

Sometimes dying to yourself means telling a knock-knock joke when you would rather curl up in a ball.

I heard Rachel Jankovic (author you should poke around and read) say once that we want to become the kind of women who can tell our feelings to shut up and salute Jesus. I agree with that. And that is the best I have to offer to you today — salute Jesus. He is making all things new. Even sickness is from His loving hand. There is very little that a bowl of cereal does not make better. He is redeeming everything. Come, Lord Jesus.

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