1982

“Thank you Jesus!”  she cried, her husband gripping her hands,
she bore down with one last great shudder,
pushing their third child in three years,
their first daughter, into my lap.

This prayer’s transcendent blessing of a routine labor,
this prayer spilling forth as blood and amnion washed my feet,
this prayer bespoke this family’s gratitude.
So at that moment, I prayed too.

Thankful for smooth delivery
of this healthy child after nine months of
vague symptoms that troubled and perplexed me,
passing it off as pregnancy fatigue and the weariness of motherhood.

The father, a hemophiliac, living with chronic pain,
painful joints swelling with blood with the slightest bump
fatigued, at times feverish, losing weight, depressed.
Their two children too often ill.

No test revealed the reason, no studied diagnosis explained their misery,
they tried elimination diets and homeopathy,
no alternative approaches yielded relief, nothing seemed to help
so much as their fervent prayer for healing.

This new baby, robust, hearty, seemed a sign
everything might be restored
yet soon she too suffered,
failing to gain weight or strength.

One day the blood bank called
to say a new test for a virus
was offered to all hemophiliacs and
this father of three children was positive.

I sat at my desk stunned, unbelieving, horrified
at what was to come.

The mother and the two younger children infected,
shared through lovemaking,
passing silently through placental circulation,
poisoning the purest of breast milk meals.

No known cure for this viral immune system slaughterer
already claiming millions of young lives and healthy bodies.
All that was left to them was prayer. Their church rallied
as they died, one by one, leaving one son, spared by inexplicable grace.

Remarkably, incredibly, his parents continued to pray
in gratitude, in submission, in sacrifice, until the very end,
“Thank you, Jesus.”

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