Sunday night I boarded a flight with my son. The flight would take us to LA despite the fact that his first name and our last name was misspelled (Cavellaro it isn’t). That trip would result in surgery.
CavSon was born with a bilateral cleft lip and palate in 2006. In 2007, while still in China, his lip was repaired. After we adopted him in 2008, we had his palate repair and then revised. He will need a bone graft after his baby teeth are gone and the adult teeth are in. In light of this, we applied to the Shriners’ Hospital cleft team. The surgeon took a quick peek and said “he needs some surgery.” He was originally slated for surgery in November, the first opening the surgeon had at Shriners’. A few weeks ago we got a call informing us that there was a cancellation. Suddenly, he was scheduled for May 7th.
CavSon was understandably nervous. He wasn’t looking forward to being apart from his mom and sister. But none of us expected what happened. A 3 hour surgery took about 6 hours. There was more extensive work done than we expected. To do that, the surgeon met some unexpected issues. In addition to elongating his palate (so he can make more sounds for his speech), there was some revision to the hard palate, as well as his lip (yet again). It is hard, at times, to sort our what is necessary and important and what is a result of the surgeon’s perfectionism. I’m just a parent, a pastor etc. You just aren’t sure.
With the length and extent of the surgery, CavSon did not rebound as quickly as he did in 2008. He was just a mess. I know it was irrational, but I felt like I’d failed my son, miserably. It was heartbreaking to watch those tears slowly slide down those cheeks intermittently. It didn’t help that he looked like he’d lost a battle with a baseball bat. Swollen, sutured and scabbed he was.
I won’t bore you with the stories of the vomiting up blood, my endless search for sleep, how little food I was able to eat and the joy of holding his bedpan.
We were discharged Tuesday after I helped clean him up. He looked much better with the dried blood gone. But he was still a mess. When he stood up to get dressed, finally, I discovered that he essentially wasn’t going to close his mouth. Lots of drool, frequently. He had this problem when we adopted him. After his palate revision it disappeared. Here’s hoping it is temporary. But he wasn’t eating, so he was lethargic.
Fortunately we were able to get a wheelchair at the airport. This made going thru LAX, including security, much easier even though our last name was now Cazallaro. It also meant we got a front row seat on the plane. But it taught me something. I didn’t think of asking for it. The van driver did. There is something in me that resists asking for help. I was overwhelmed, and my son was weak. I didn’t ask for the meal voucher for the previous few days. Perhaps this is why God keeps putting me in positions where I need help: to deliver me from my pride and attempts at self-sufficiency. Aren’t I pathetic? Join the club.
I also tend to keep some of my emotions pent up. There were lots of them sitting next to CavSon and flying back. An unexpected surprise broke the dam. CavWife and CavGirl were waiting for us at the gate. CavGirl had colored a beautiful little sign to welcome her brother home. We all broke down and cried- for different reasons. CavSon looks different, even without all the stitches and bruising. She was afraid she would not recognize him. We aren’t even sure what he’ll look like now. He was shocked to see himself in the mirror. It is like he’s demoralized right now.
I just have to bring God back into this. I subjected my son to great pain and discomfort in the short term, that he might have a long term benefit. And it tears me apart. The Father did not spare His only Son, but offered Him up for us though we were sinners, His enemies, and helpless. He willingly put His Son thru hell, for our benefit. If I am moved by my son’s suffering, surely He was moved. But this is ensures me that when His adopted children are in the pit, He is there.
As part of my sermon preparation this morning, I was flipping through The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom. I had a bookmark where her sister, who was the ‘strong’ one in the concentration camp, lay dying. She told her that they must tell people what they have learned in Ravensbruck. That would be the core of Corrie’s ministry for decades. There are things you only learn when you are in the pit, when you are suffering.
“We must tell them that there is no pit so deep that He is not deeper still.” Betsie ten Boom
He is the One who reaches down into that pit- homelessness, cancer, addiction, unjust imprisonment- to rescue sinners purchased by His blood. He is the One who helps us in the pit before He brings us out of the pit.