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Message of Love

Their secret code went back to the days when he was a little boy. Now, suddenly, it was all they had.

Brad Wilcox in 1978

My lonely headlights searched the fresh snow ahead of me. I fumbled with my top coat button against the cold. Of all nights for this to happen! Dad away in Seattle on business, and my brother Roger at college!

“Don’t think about it, just drive,” I told myself as the wheels slid sideways on the icy street. I tried to think of a song to fit the rhythm of the struggling windshield wipers. But there was no song in me.

No wonder it had happened. This snowstorm, the same snowfall I had thought so beautiful and pure just two hours ago, was now the white-cloaked villain who had so mercilessly forced my mother’s car off the road. Now she lay unconscious in critical condition.

“Are you her son?” they had asked on the telephone.

“I’ll be right there!” I had shouted.

Dad didn’t know, and Rog didn’t know. There was just me in my old heap of a Chevy, and this snow.

A frozen string of tears beaded my cheeks. I pulled the glove from my left hand to wipe my eyes.

Just the other day Mom said these gloves were too small, I thought, as I flexed my cold fingers to circulate the blood. Are the gloves too small, or are my hands too big? These hands, which just a few hours before were squeezed so lovingly by my beautiful mother.

“That snow looks bad, Mom. I wish you weren’t going out tonight.”

“I do, too. But some things just have to be done.” She reached to squeeze my hand good-bye.

“Aw, come on, Mom. I’m too old for that,” I declared, withdrawing my hand. “I’m not a little boy. I don’t want to play baby games any more.”

“It’s just my way of telling you, son. It’s our secret code.”

“I know, I know,” I said, with exasperated resentment. “I’m tired of your silly secret code. Three squeezes, one-two-three. I love you,” I mimicked in full-toned sarcasm. “Never again, Mom.”

The words burned in my mind as I stared blankly ahead. I could still see her hurt smile.

Three squeezes had always been our love language. Because of that simple code, countless cuts and bruises had been healed. How often had we sat in church hand-delivering our secret message, or had walked through the park saying, “I love you,” in silent communication?

Mom had so many ways of showing love. “Thanks for picking me up,” I would say to Mom the Chauffeur, or “You didn’t have to make my bed, but thanks,” to Mom the Homemaker.

“My pleasure, sir,” she would respond melodramatically, squeezing my hand.

During my 16-year lifetime Mom and Dad must have invested a trillion hours per year just helping me.

Ever since I could remember there had always been thoughtful rewards, and lately, dollar bills for feeding my gas tank or feeding my date. But always delivered with our secret code, the secret code that my hands had, only two hours ago, grown too large to return.

I clutched the steering wheel with one hand. Gripping the old glove in my teeth, I finally managed to fit it back over my chilled fingers. The snow fell lighter now. I was making better time.

I had never faced a problem entirely alone before. Rog had been the dependable big brother who always shepherded me past pitfalls, buying my lunch tickets, picking me up after practice.

I had wanted responsibility, and now I had it! Terrified is a pale word to describe how I felt.

What if she dies! Could anything ever be right again? Suddenly the snow looked sticky and ugly. How I wished I could bury the snow, my head, my hands, responsibility, everything!

I shifted and skidded to a stop. Several other cars slid through the snow-screened intersection. I was startled to see that the rest of the world had not stopped at the same moment my own world shattered.

The lights of the hospital guided me through the white blackness. My old car chugged, sputtered and died. With a frustrated shove I freed the frozen door. Wind lashed at my exposed face. A slip on the ice sent me sprawling to the frozen pavement.

I stood up and shook myself. The biting wind hurried me toward the institutional glass doors.

I stammered Mom’s name to the receptionist. It sounded foreign. To me, she was always just “Mom.”

The receptionist referred to her files. She seemed ponderously slow, but finally faced me. She manipulated the switchboard, then directed me to the elevator.

“A nurse will be waiting on the third floor. I hope everything will be all right.”

My rapid steps echoed dully in the endless tunnel of the hospital hallway. Elevator doors closed, trapping me inside, then drew aside again like curtains opening on a stage set. A young nurse entered stage left, taking my arm, including me in the scene.

“Please wait here,” she told me. “I’ll get the doctor.”

I leaned my forehead against the sharp coldness of the window, peering sightlessly into the night. Snow whirled dizzily against the pane.

“Are you her son?”

I turned to find a new character in my drama. Even from my six-foot height the doctor seemed tall. Costumed in surgical green, he was well-cast in his role.

“I’m glad you came so quickly. Since your father is not here, you must be the man of the family.”

I shifted uneasily in my wet shoes. Those were the exact words Dad had left with me. I wanted Dad here; here in the hospital where I was born, here with this tall doctor wearing this clinical face.

He led me down the hall. “This is her room. Now remember, son, you mustn’t expect her to respond. She may not even recognize you. She is in a semi-conscious state and suffering considerable pain.”

I pushed the door open and stepped inside. There lay a figure surrounded by machines, strapped and laced with tubes and needles. A transparent oxygen tent encompassed the upper half of the body.

As I stood looking across at that pale, pained face I realized this was not another character in my dramatic scene. This was my mother!

Mom’s eyes opened in an unnatural stare. I stepped across the silence of that small hospital room lit only by street lamps outside the window. I reached out and laid my trembling hand on hers.

I knew what I had to do. My message had to be clear. I squeezed–one-two-three. Only God knew how important it was that she understand.

Her eyes flickered. She knew me! A tear ran down my face and dropped upon my hand–the hand that had been too grownup for this baby game.

My hand enfolded hers and passed our secret code again and again until she fell asleep. Through the window I could see the snow falling gently now.

“Thank You,” I prayed in marvelous relief. “Thank You for life, and hands and secret codes.”


Download your FREE ebook, A Prayer for Every Need, by Dr. Norman Vincent Peale.

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