This Thursday I’m taking my daughter to the mountain again. This time we’re going as pilgrims, there and back again. It wasn’t like that just a few years ago and it won’t be like that in a couple more.
A few years ago I took my daughter in my arms, all 7 years and 50 pounds of her and laid her out on a gurney altar. I signed a piece of paper that promised the doctors that if they accidentally killed my daughter doing to her what they were just about to do I wouldn’t hold them responsible. No problem there, I knew who was responsible. I walked beside the rolling altar down the sterile hallway to the O.R. doors. We rolled through the doors as she held my hand looking so tiny and fragile stretched out, blonde on white.
The altar came to a stop and I looked up into the blinding light coming down on us from above and I prayed. “O God…” I looked down into her wee, trusting eyes. A voice spoke to me, “Count to as high as she can count with her.”
“O.K., Em, can you count with me?” I desperately wanted my voice to sound calm, peaceful, confident. “1,” we said together, “2, 3, f…, fo…, 4, f…, f…” and she was asleep. And I could finally start to shake and let the tears come to my eyes.
“You have to leave now.” The voice spoke to me again.
I turned and looked at the door I had come in with my little girl on this altar of chrome and cotton. My body turned to go but my heart was too heavy for it to be carried out so easily. I turned back to Em, still holding her tiny hand, looking peaceful, almost too peaceful. I sighed, I sobbed and I released her little hand. I turned and my feet dragged along the floor in their sterile booties. 10 feet. 10 miles. I looked back from the doorway, looked up into the light again and groaned a prayer of petition, desperation, helplessness, dependence. I waited in the eternity between one breath and another for a voice to shout from the light, “Brian, Brian!” No voice, only the sound of my own heart beating.
I walked the forever hallway back to the room where my wife waited. We sat, I paced, we waited and waited and waited and then waited some more. Finally the doctor came to tell us that God was giving us our daughter back like an angel announcing peace on earth and good will to men on whom his favour rests.
And this Thursday we go back. Back to the mountain and we remember what was and is and is to come. No paper to sign this time, no long, lonely, weak-kneed walk. Not this time.
I wonder what look passed between Abraham and Isaac when they passed Mt. Moriah when Isaac was big enough to have his own son? I wonder if Abraham dreamed the same dream I dream that sometimes wakes me up at 2 a.m. and leads me in to stand beside my daughter’s bed and watch, just watch to make sure she’s breathing, make sure she’s warm and covered up. I think about what Abraham did and I wonder if I have the strength to do it all over again.