The hospital room was unusually quiet. It was a relief to spend some time alone, just the three of us—my husband, me and our 10-year-old daughter, who was now resting comfortably after surgery. Hannah had undergone a pelvic osteotomy to stabilize her hip, which was prone to dislocating due to Down syndrome. She had a long recovery ahead—months in a body cast, maybe a brace after that—but Hannah was a trooper. She had complete trust in the doctors and nurses who kept a close eye on her, and I prayed that God was nearby too. Hannah looked up at me in all her innocence.
“Water,” she said. Her dad poured her a cup. Hannah shook her head no and flapped her arms. “Water!” she said again, flapping her little arms.
Communication wasn’t always easy for Hannah, and she used body language with her words to get her meaning across. She was patient with her father and me while we tried to understand. I was afraid her flapping arms was a sign of frustration, but Hannah was in good spirits. The nurse came in to check Hannah and saw no cause for alarm. Still, we could see that she had something important to say. This time we couldn’t figure out what it was.
We took Hannah home, and little by little, she got used to her cast and her wheelchair. One day, a few weeks after the surgery, I maneuvered Hannah into the bathroom to wash her hair. As we rolled in, I glanced up at the framed artwork hanging on the wall. The print showed a little girl angel wading in a calm lake. The tips of her wings took a dip too. I’d bought the picture when Hannah was only a baby. Lord, she’s been so brave through all of this. Please keep your angels nearby.
I turned Hannah around to get her head closer to the handheld sprayer we had attached to the bathtub’s faucet. “Water!” Hannah said.
“That’s right,” I said, reaching to turn on the tap.
Hannah pointed to the wall behind me, where the picture hung. She wasn’t talking about water from the faucet. “Yes, there’s water in that picture too,” I said. “Water in the bathtub and water with the angel. You’re right.”
Hannah nodded but she wasn’t finished. Now she pointed to her hip and waited for me to assure her that I knew what she was saying.
“We went to the hospital so the doctors could make your hip better,” I said. “I remember.”
Her father and I still hadn’t forgotten about the incident in the hospital, when she’d tried so hard to tell us something we couldn’t understand. I replayed her movements in my mind. Her body was confined to the cast, but she flapped her arms … as if she were flying? I wondered. I turned my head to look at the picture behind me. The angel, her wings dipping into the water…
“Wait, Hannah, are you trying to tell me about an angel? Like the one in the water?”
Hannah’s face lit up. “Angel!” She’d found the word she was looking for. She pointed to her hip, then up at the ceiling. She flapped her arms like she’d done at the hospital. Then she held up three fingers.
“Angels were flying around your hospital room? Three angels?”
Hannah nodded joyfully. Once again, her patience with her father and me had paid off. How could I have thought that the hospital room—or any room—ever held just the three of us? God and his angels were always near. Hannah knew it and now I did too. Sometimes God had to be as patient with me as Hannah was.
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