89: Samuel’s Promise

89: Samuel’s Promise

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Messages from Heaven

Samuel’s Promise

Faith is reason grown courageous.

~Sherwood Eddy

My mother had already suffered five miscarriages when she got pregnant with me at the age of forty-one. Two months into her pregnancy she began vomiting and spotting, and she worried she’d lose me too. It was 1945 and Mother’s previous doctors had suggested no medical treatments except confining her to bed. Her new doctor suggested Mother also try shots of a drug called diethylstilbestrol. Dad gave her the daily shots of DES and Mother only left her bed to use the bathroom. She quit bleeding and vomiting, and as the months passed she could feel me move inside her. She and Dad were thrilled when the doctor heard my strong heartbeat.

But Mother grew weaker and weaker and lost weight despite the pregnancy. “At least we’ll have our own child,” she comforted herself.

Then Mother’s father, Samuel, suddenly died. All her life, Mother had leaned on him for comfort and strength. As a child, she often went with him to wash the windows of his real estate office. Afterward, they would go for ice cream and he would tell her, “Helen, you are the best little girl in the world. I’m so lucky you are my daughter.”

Once, when Mother was five years old, she couldn’t stop crying because her older sister wouldn’t play with her. Samuel came to her with an empty goldfish bowl.

“Here, Helen,” he said. “When you’ve filled this bowl with tears we’ll get you a goldfish.”

As Mother tried to catch her tears in the bowl, she started to giggle. For years she kept the bowl on her dresser as a reminder to look on the bright side of things.

When she went away to college, Samuel kept in close touch through letters and phone calls. He continued to write and call after Mother and Dad married, and my parents spent summer vacations with him in Utah.

Now Samuel was gone. There would be no more infusions of his positive energy.

“I can’t even go to the funeral,” Mother sobbed. She grieved day after day and lost still more weight.

Frantic about her health, her doctor suggested a C-section to save her life, even though her pregnancy with me hadn’t reached full term.

“Think about it,” Dad said. “We’ve done our best. You’re getting so weak.”

I can’t imagine the turmoil Mother must have experienced. I was her chance for a child of her own flesh and blood. But was having a baby worth risking her life? And what if I lived but she died and left me motherless?

Mother closed her eyes to pray for guidance and a vision came to her. She saw herself, heavy with child, standing on a bridge over a mountain stream. Slender aspens lined both banks. The sky was a cloudless blue and the spring air smelled fresh. Samuel was there, walking toward her, as if they were on one of the family outings she’d enjoyed as a child in Ogden Canyon.

“Papa,” she cried in the vision and held out her arms to him. “I thought you were gone.”

He gathered her in a hug, and then took her arm and they crossed the bridge together. On the other side he turned and looked into her eyes. “Helen,” he said. “I promise you that you will have a healthy baby, and that you will live to raise your child to maturity.”

“Are you sure?” she asked.

“I’m sure,” he said.

As Mother lifted her face to kiss his cheek, the scene faded and she was back in her bedroom.

Mother immediately told Dad about her vision. “I’ll be all right and so will the baby,” she assured him. “We’ll tell the doctor we’re going to wait.”

Dad might have thought Mother’s vision was a dream born of wishful thinking, but Mother knew differently. She held onto Samuel’s promise in the core of her being, and gathered enough strength from his words to carry me to full term. When I was born I weighed in at a healthy six pounds.

After my birth, Mother had reason to fiercely hold onto Samuel’s promise that she would live to raise me. During the months she’d been confined to her bed, she had developed phlebitis, an inflammation of a vein near her right ankle. Despite following the doctor’s instructions to keep her leg elevated all the time, she developed a blood clot.

While I lay in the hospital nursery, hours old, snuggly warm in an isolette, Mother fought for her life in a room down the hall. If the clot broke loose from the wall of the vein it would travel to her heart. A large clot would choke off all the blood to her lungs and kill her. At that time the doctors’ only weapon against a thrombus was heparin, a blood thinner.

Despite medication for pain, Mother suffered terribly. Dad sat by her hospital bed all night, Mother gripping his hand so tight it grew numb. Doctors and nurses came in and out of her hospital room, checking Mother’s vital signs.

“My leg is on fire down by my ankle,” she sobbed, her face pale and twisted with pain. And then, taking a shuddering breath, she said to Dad, “We have to remember my father’s promise.”

Mother’s doctor took a seat across from Dad as the night brightened into day. “The next hours will be critical,” he whispered.

“My chest. The pain,” Mother moaned. “I can’t breathe.” She cried out again. Then her body jerked and was still. Her skin took on a deathly pallor.

The doctor searched for a pulse and then leaned close to her chest, placing his stethoscope over her heart.

Two nurses standing in the doorway took each other’s hands.

Dad fixed his eyes on her face, willing her to live, praying for her life.

He blinked his eyes, and blinked again. Was color coming back into Mother’s face? Had her labored breathing resumed?

The doctor checked her pulse. “She made it,” he announced, wiping his forehead with a handkerchief.

Dad choked back tears of relief. “I thought we’d lost her.”

“It was so strange,” Mother said when she had the energy to talk. “I was on the ceiling looking at my body. I could see the sweat on Dr. Cobb’s forehead.” She closed her eyes and rested, then said, “The chest pain is gone. My father was right.”

Several times over the ensuing decades Mother suffered significant health problems including pancreatitis, and diverticulitis so severe that hemorrhaging threatened her life. “Remember my father’s promise,” she would always say. “Sammie isn’t raised to maturity.” Holding on to her vision, Mother recovered from every illness, returning to the care of our family and to her active career as a writer and writing teacher. She died of a stroke at age eighty-eight.

I believe people when they say they’ve had a visit from someone who has passed. Mother’s belief in her vision gave her the strength to fight for and save my life as well as her own.

~Samantha Ducloux Waltz

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