He looked at her with an expression I don't often see. Defeat.
"L, he's not good. I don't think he will make it."
In silence she just looked at him in disbelief. This isn't how it was supposed to have turned out. This wasn't how the story was supposed to have ended.
With blank eyes she looked at him and the corners of her mouth turned up. Although her lips were smiling, the smile had most definitely NOT made it to her eyes.
"L, why are you smiling?" Steven asked.
Her head stiffly turned and looked at me, the same expression on her face. This expression, however, was not new to me. I had seen it often when looking at my own husband when on the verge of breaking himself, almost as if he was willing himself to not break down. The smile, however, is hollow.
I was amazed that Steven didn't recognize an expression that he, himself, had worn.
"Don't you see? She's just like you. She's trying not to cry."
I picked L up and sat her on the counter top and pulled her to me like I had many times before. As I sat there holding her, her legs wrapped around my body and her arms wrapped around my neck, her weight supported by the counter, she laid her head on my shoulder. Steven leaned over, rubbed her back, and said, "It's OK to cry."
Although it was a statement, L almost seemed to take it as permission, and the walls that she had hid safely behind fell down.
The tears were first and when enough relief wasn't granted by them, the sobs shook her whole body.
B, knowing that L was the "strong one" and that this rawness was rare, came and stood by her side, almost as a temporary protector.
His eyes filled with tears and he blinked them away, determined, this time, to be the strong one.
When her crying became too much, he walked towards the window, looked out, regained his composure, and once again, took up his post at her side. I took her to bed and laid beside her stroking her hair and rubbing her back. B came in and crawled into bed on my other side. Although no sound was heard, my arm, the one resting beneath B's head, became damp with the tears that he shed for his sister.
When L finally quieted I thought she had succumbed to sleep. However, it was then that a sob that she had buried deep within her escaped. B was silent no more. "Momma?", "I think we need to say a BIG prayer."
Prayers for miracles had been made by these two children for days and I didn't want them to doubt God's power to perform one, but at the same time, I wanted them to know that some things just are...and it doesn't mean that God isn't. I met his request with the statement, "Maybe we can just ask God to do what He believes is right. Even if that means ending Weston's suffering. Do you want to pray aloud and together, or silently to ourselves?"
"To ourselves...." he replied and then there was silence.
The next morning L woke and started getting ready for school. As I combed her hair she spoke for the first time about her horse.
"Letting him go is going to be really hard."
I agreed and hugged her. I told her that she had some extra time before school if she wanted to go and spend some time with Weston, knowing that it might be her last chance.
She nodded and went outside. I finished getting B ready and went outside to be with her. Steven was home that day and had been out doing chores when he saw her walk towards her horse. He silently walked to her and placed his hand on her back. As I drew closer to them I couldn't help but marvel at their distinct similarities. Without a word each knew what the other was thinking...and feeling.
I closed the gap and stood by their sides. L silently peered into the pen, knowing that Weston had become to unstable to join. Steven's gaze met mine as a tear rolled down L's cheek. His beautiful blue eyes were filled with tears threatening to spill over. It was now his mouth that formed a smile and a nervous laugh escaped before he turned on his heel and walked away before L could bear witness to his weakness.
I didn't know how I could tell her the news. Steven had decided that I needed to be the one to do it, rationalizing that she would "do better seeing her mama cry, than she would seeing me cry". "I wasn't attached to the horse", he explained, as if an explanation was necessary, "I just can't bear to see her hurt."
I pulled up to the school and hadn't made it to the first stop sign before she asked. "I'm sorry, L. I am so sorry". I reached back and grabbed her hand. As I searched for her eyes in the rear view mirror I saw an expression worn of that of a defiant teenager. Her brow was furrowed and her mouth said, somewhat hatefully, "WHAT?!".
It was then that B realized what had transpired. In desperation and with his tears freely flowing he said, "L's horse died!" "Oh no!.....Poor L!". He began crying without even trying to hide it.
She sat, stiff backed, looking out the car window, with only an occasional tear running down her cheek.
We made it over half-way home when B, while still crying, said, "Is it too late for our miracle?"
After we pulled in the drive, L opened her car door and walked straight to the house. She passed her daddy without a word.
"L?" I gently said. "Do you want to go see where he is buried? To put the marker on the grave?"
She shook her head 'no', and continued in the house, kicking off her shoes without slowing down her pace.
She looked so stiff to me that I couldn't keep to myself anymore.
I came up behind her, turned her around to face me, and picked up my 8 year old girl and carried her to the rocking chair where I rocked her like a baby.
And she let me.
Only a few stray tears trickled down and after about 5 minutes she turned to me and said, "Last night was my night. I'm OK. Last night was my time."
Steven came in a bent down and kissed her on her forehead and said, "I'm sorry about your horse."
In turn, he was met with, "Nice hair, Daddy!" as she pointed to a piece of hair that stuck straight up on his head, and again, "Nice!".
She repositioned herself where she was sitting up and started talking about the day, what she wanted for supper, and anything other than what Steven and I were thinking about and had been worrying about all day.
She had once again, pushed it aside, and was willing herself to move on.
As my phone kept chirping as it was receiving notifications from facebook, L noticed her name in some of the comments.
I explained that earlier that day I had shared what had happened to Weston and that all of these comments were people wishing her well and praying for her.
She swallowed hard.
I then went to the computer and showed her the number of comments there were.
Again, that pesky lump in her throat made swallowing visibly difficult.
Then, so wise beyond her years, she said, "I want to thank them."
And so, she wrote on my status:
"This is (L). THANK YOU SO MUCH.I loved the comments.IT WAS REALLY HARD.
The comments made my day better!"
I couldn't believe that she had, in her heartache, wanted to thank others for their kindness. She amazes and inspires me daily.
That night, in her infinite wisdom, she hugged my neck and said, "You know......letting Weston go was much harder than him being gone. He's not suffering now."
I am amazed at L's compassion, and her wisdom, and I can't wait to see who this 8 year old girl turns out to be.
I am warmed by B's compassion, concern and care for his sister and I can't wait to see who this 6 year old boy turns out to be.
And I can't help but wonder how I got so incredibly lucky?
(This is L and the newest member of our family, Sweetie. They were both pretty tight just minutes after meeting each other at Sweetie's former home. I think Sweetie might have been looking for someone just like her and L was looking for someone just like Sweetie.)