20: A Breakfast Blessed

20: A Breakfast Blessed

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Touched by an Angel

A Breakfast Blessed

The wings of angels are often found on the backs of the least likely people.

~Eric Honeycutt

I just wanted to toast my stupid bagel. Inspecting the industrial slicer through a fog of exhaustion and heartbreak, it might as well have been designed in outer space. I had been trying to cut the bagel for a few minutes. In my state of anguish, such a simple act was just too complicated. I felt nauseated all of a sudden and knew the past few days were finally welling up within me, ready to burst. So instead, right there in the breakfast line of the Long Beach Memorial Hospital cafeteria, I leaned on the counter, put my head in my hands, and sobbed.

How had I gotten here? It seemed a lifetime ago that I was dropping my kids at tennis lessons before driving to Orange County to teach musical theater to at-risk teens. My six-year-old son Braden had been lethargic and fragile during our trip to Yosemite the month before but had seemed to rally afterward. Altitude sickness? I had wondered, but barely gave it a second thought as we resumed our regular routine and Braden’s strength returned. Yet in the middle of the week — a Wednesday I’ll never forget — the tennis instructor stopped me to report her concern that Braden was sick. He had been to the bathroom multiple times throughout the day and didn’t seem himself. I thanked her and said I would have him checked immediately. Taking him straight to the doctor and believing I’d get a prescription for a bladder infection, Dr. Percer’s words stopped me in my tracks.

“We found a lot of sugar in your son’s urine,” he said quietly. Alternate waves of cold and heat washed me over. “I’m sorry?” I asked. Surely I had heard him wrong. “There’s quite a bit of sugar in Braden’s urine sample,” he repeated. “We don’t have an up-to-date glucose monitor in our office, so we need to get him to the hospital right away.” Type I diabetes. The words felt like a death sentence.

The next few hours were a blur. There was the phone call to my husband’s office, me working hard to keep my voice and hands steady for the sake of the children. Braden’s sister, Colleen, asking fearfully in her small nine-year-old voice, “Mama, is it contagious?” Drew and I packing slowly for the hospital, hoping to avoid the inevitable diagnosis. The team of doctors and nurses descending upon us as we got Braden to his room, poking, prodding, and pricking him as he became more and more panicked. It felt as though I was living my very worst nightmare, yet no matter how hard I tried to shake it off, I couldn’t rouse myself.

Three days later, after another sleepless night of constant blood sugar checks, insulin shots and taking of vitals, the nurses changed shifts and our original admitting nurse, Laura, came into the room. Taking one look at me, she said, “You need to eat. Braden’s sleeping. Go down to the cafeteria and take a break from all of this. I’ll watch him until you get back.” I told her I couldn’t bring myself to leave him. “You need to get away for a few minutes. Carry your breakfast back up here if you want, but get out of this room and take a breath.” That was how I found myself face to face with this bagel-slicing contraption. And how I found myself, broken and alone, weeping uncontrollably over a hospital tray.

I felt a movement beside me and looked up to find a woman wordlessly taking the bagel off of my plate and effortlessly arranging it in the cutter. With one quick movement, she cut my breakfast bagel in half. She looked at me and asked, “Toasted?” I could only nod in affirmation. She put her hand on my shoulder, guiding me down the stainless steel counter. “Cream cheese?” she asked. Again, I nodded. “Butter?” she asked. I shook my head. She took two little Philadelphia cream cheese containers and placed them on my tray.

Once the bagel was loaded up, napkin, knife and even a spoon gathered for my yogurt, she carried my tray with hers to the cashier and paid for everything. I didn’t have the strength to speak but knew that my tears, now of gratitude for her simple act of grace, spoke volumes. She looked deep into my eyes, squeezed my arm warmly, and said, “It will get better.” I inhaled and looked down at my tray, trying to compose myself enough to utter a word of thanks.

Only a moment passed before I glanced up again, yet when I did, she was nowhere to be seen. I looked left and right, in front of me and behind, expecting to see the back of this Good Samaritan walking away, but there was only the bustle of hospital life. A feeling of peace washed me over and I knew for certain in that public moment of despair, thinking I had no one to lean on and wondering how I would persevere, I had been divinely blessed. God had sent an earthly angel to shore me up at my lowest, to envelope me in His care.

It’s been eight years since Braden’s diabetes diagnosis. There are still days that are a challenge, and dealing with the blood sugar of a teenage boy can feel like a science experiment gone awry. But all in all, he is in good health. We as a family have adjusted to a life of glucose checks and insulin shots, counting carbs, and treating highs and lows. We’re so proud of him for somehow managing most of it on his own.

More than these physical feats, however, we feel abundantly blessed in our hearts. We have the support of our friends and family. We have access to the latest medical treatments and our insurance covers a huge percentage of Braden’s prescriptions. But most importantly, from the very start we have felt the guiding hand of our Father on this challenging journey. He’s brought us peace and solace in our sadness, answers to questions in our confusion, and he’s placed amazing people in our lives to help guide us.

Yet none of these gifts have been more memorable than the time, one particularly desperate morning eight years ago, He sent an earthly vessel to perform a random act of kindness to a woman in need. Truly, this stranger was my angel, helping me trust in His plan as she sustained me with His comfort and grace.

~Cynthia McGonagle McGarity

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