It started out as a little scab on the tip of her nose after a few nosebleeds in the night that stained her pillow and dried on her cheeks. A few mornings later she woke up in bed next to me and I could see her nose was swollen.
"Erin, look at me," I told her as I cupped her face in my hands.
I touched her nose from the top by her brow all the way to her cleft before her lips started. The skin was puffy around her nose and sinuses and turned white to the touch.
"Does this hurt?" I asked her.
"No" was her nasally reply.
Immediately I diagnosed her with a sinus infection. I checked on her all day but she never felt hot or feverish and her only symptoms were dry bloody discharge at the bottom of her nose below the crescent-shaped scab. She carried on like the vibrant two-year old she is--as though nothing were wrong at all.
The next day her nose was still swollen and she also started to complain of spiders casting webs all over her body. "SPIDERS!" she'd say desperately swatting her hair and legs as if she were trying to rid herself of sticky webbing. Still no fever. Still eating and drinking just fine.
The third day her mouth broke out in scabs and dry skin. Her lips were inflamed and sores formed at the corners of her mouth. Her eyes turned a light pink and sunk back in her head. Dark puffy skin pooled around the bottom of her sockets. Below her brow, scabs started to form, as well as on her cheeks. Her skin, usually the color of a sun-kissed peach and soft to the touch, turned white and pasty, flaky and dry.
She looked like a walking corpse, I told my friend Janna.
But still she didn't complain much, except the random "SPIDERS!" frustration. She ran around the house in her usual style with a baby or a stuffed animal in one hand and a costume in the other.
We called the doctor immediately. We waited out in the car for a nurse to come and tell us if her condition was too contagious to sit a waiting room with other children. When the nurse came to our car I rolled down the window with Erin on my lap. Watching the nurse's face as she looked at my daughter was hard for me. She gasped a little.
"That does look like some sort of rash..." she said with a flip of the voice at the end so that it sounded more like a question than a statement. Taking her temperature behind her ear, she slowly said, "I'm pretty sure she's not terribly contagious, come on in."
Before we left the car, Erin grabbed a cracker out of my purse. She held on to that cracker while we waited for the doctor in a barn-themed room. She held on to that cracker as he looked at her scabby face and immediately diagnosed her with impetigo. She held on to that cracker as he scribbled out a prescription and ripped it off the ledger and handed it to me.
"Is this your safety cracker?" he asked her in his baby-voice. We love his baby-voice. A pediatrician without a baby voice is a small tragedy.
But Erin didn't respond, she just looked back and him with her infected eyes, the buttery cracker firmly cupped in her palm. My gregarious daughter, full of love and affection was a little scared. And that broke my heart a little.
As we left the office, she ate her safety cracker until there were just little specks of it around the dried corners of her mouth.
The medicine took almost an immediate effect. Her skin started to clear within hours of the antibiotics. And when I could see she was out of the worst of it, I cried and cried and cried.
Seeing my Erin looking so distressed and infected, like she couldn't possibly be alive and look so terrible, was somewhat traumatic for me. Erin is special to me. She brings an emotional balance into my life. When I am feeling depleted, she is often the presence that fills me up. I find myself thinking how I want to be to God what she is to me. She's inherently good and wants to do good things. She's smart and funny and flutters about the house happy and content. Although not perfect, certainly, she is remarkably humble and willing to listen. Her genuine concern for others leads her to often sacrifice what she wants for her siblings or friend's desires. She takes care of herself, hardly ever asking me for things. And she's brave. Heavens, she is so brave.
But I didn't know how much I loved her until this outbreak of scars and dried blood. I put her to bed that night after a dose of antibiotics and I did the dishes and sobbed. My love for my children is profound, but because we spend our days living, working, surviving we don't stop much to feel how deep we love.
And I find it just a little unsettling, but at least I know, there is no bottom to that love. There's no threshold to hold it all in. I closed my eyes and saw my soul as an infinite series of chambers where my love continued to fall deeper and deeper in and out of rooms with doors that opened but never shut. And I wonder if this concept is the only hard proof we have that a conscious eternity does in fact exist? It is the only thing I know for sure that doesn't end. Where does all that love go if there is no eternity to fill it?
I learned this week something I knew before but never really understood: a broken heart is the very instrument we use to understand how deep we love.