I read a book last night to a tossing preschooler. Its literary characters included a best-friend giraffe, a gigantic moon over the savannah, an adorable baby elephant, and his worried mama. Meet Me at the Moon by Gianna Marino lay at the bottom of the stack I pulled from the book cupboard. The dust jacket described the story as, “A young elephant learns that his mother’s love is everywhere and enduring.” I was hooked before I read the first word.
When I gently knocked on the door of Room 652 and heard a soft, “Come in,” I opened the door to a young patient whimpering and tossing about in her bed, her pink-casted IV port trying frantically to keep up with the waving arm.
I introduced myself and asked if she would like me to read a story to her. Her mother smiled tiredly and said, “That would be lovely. Maybe I can close my eyes for a moment. We didn’t get much sleep last night.” Without waiting for a response from me, she moved to the recliner by the door and allowed her heavy eyelids to close.
I settled myself by Miss Restless and showed her the cover to the richly-colored book in my hand. The waving arms stopped and she tentatively touched the cover with her uncasted hand. I began reading in soft tones, both for the benefit of the mother, and also to soothe my little reading buddy. The lights were dim and a hush descended in that hospital room. The restlessness ceased and for ten quiet minutes, or so, the only sounds in the room were the lilt of my voice, and the soft, engaged remarks of the child.
The book was enchanting. A worried mother elephant knows that the rains need to come to the drought-stricken savannah in order for life to exist. In a tender exchange between she and her child, she pledges her love and affection, and sets off for the mountain to ask the skies for rain. As I read, I thought of the parents of the children I read to. This tired mother. The other parents in rooms up and down the corridor. The anxious homeless families I know. Such challenges they face! And yet, they go to remarkable lengths to care for the needs of their children. Love is an amazing and powerful thing. Unquantifiable and a little mystical.
When we finished our story, Mom opened her eyes and thanked me for the small break. I smiled and left, but as I stood outside the door preparing to enter another room, I heard wails behind Door 652. I quickly chose a second book for the child, knocked again, and slipped inside. The tiny girl’s symptoms had spiked suddenly and she was miserable. I laid the second book on the side table and the mother gratefully thanked me. “And thank you for the first book. Elephants are her favorite,” she remarked with gratitude and a touch of awe in her voice.
I stood outside the room with the inconsolable child and weary mother and smiled with wonder. A tiny miracle. A book I nearly passed over was the very one that grabbed and held the attention of a miserably ill child, giving her bone-weary mama a much needed break.
“When the night sky is bright, Little One, meet me at the moon, where the sky touches the earth. I love you, Little One.”
To every mother tonight nursing a sick, miserable child, or wondering where your next meal will come from, may you be blessed with rest, peace, and courage…