On the way to the hospital with Sarah, I thought about what life would be like if we suddenly lost her. I have become very loose with my thoughts lately when I get frustrated with the kids. Once or twice in the midst of breaking up one of their arguments, drowning in a chorus of whines about what I’ve served for dinner or picking up and putting away the same toy for the ninth time, I’ve given in to the indulgence of considering what I’d be doing at that moment instead, if I’d not had kids. It’s always something quiet and simple, like reading a novel, working on a novel, meeting a friend for a glass of wine and some intelligent conversation or an evening bike ride. Not one image or another lingers for long but rather they all flash through my mind like a furious Rolodex of someone else’s life. The whole thought is over within seconds but the guilt seeps in, settling into the cracks of my mind and haunting me at times like this. What if this is happening to Sarah because the universe or God was trying to teach me a lesson?

If something happened to Sarah how would it impact not only me but Foster or Annie? Even though she does not have the esteemed title of first-born or the privilege of the constant coddling that “the baby” of the family enjoys, she is the critical link that connects them. Her relationships with Foster and Annie are quite distinct yet the whole thing flows together so smoothly.

Foster and Sarah will steal away in Fosters room and play Star Wars games. She is a good soldier and lets Foster take the lead in mostly all of their games. They giggle at inside jokes at the dinner table. Foster walks her to her classroom in the morning and waits for her in the school hallway at dismissal. Even though he claims that Sarah lives only to annoy him, he has reluctantly admitted more than once that she is his best friend. Foster hasn’t connected with Annie in the same way. From his perspective, the five-year age gap between him and Annie defines her eternally as a baby sister and he treats her so. Although I’ve caught him showering her with affection from time to time, I doubt she will ever be raised to best friend status.

That doesn’t mean that Annie doesn’t have a partner. She has a best friend and that best friend is Sarah. She always considers Sarah in her daily decisions. If she gets a piece of candy, she must also insist on one for Sarah. She follows Sarah everywhere. They shower together, play dress up, sneakily apply my lipstick on each other inside the confines of their bedspread forts. They share a bedroom and I hear their giggles late into the night, long after I’ve sent them both to bed.

As the middle child, Sarah is in the best possible position. She is a best friend to Foster and a best friend to Annie. If Sarah were to suddenly be taken from us, the void would be immeasurable. Of course losing any one of my children is an utter horror to me, however losing Sarah specifically would completely devastate the dynamics of our family in a way that one could consider the worst possible scenario.

So what now? Waiting around the ER since 8 am while they run test after test I’ve spent the hours counting my blessings. I’ve sat at the edge of Sarah’s bed studying her little purple polished fingernails. I brushed and braided her long golden hair. I counted all the little freckles sprinkling her nose and cheeks. I held my palm over her stomach, quietly begging God to take her pain away and protect her. Even if all the moments from here on out are hard ones, I’ll wholeheartedly take them and ask for nothing else. I stroke her sore arm from where a spiderweb of IV tubes invades and I cant wait to get her home so I can give her a bath, cook her dinner, and pick up her toy for the tenth time.

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