Saturday, 9:15 a.m.
Don’t ask, Julia Whittaker wanted to scream.
But the words were sawdust in her mouth. Matt would ask because it was his nature to take in information, cradle it, and rebirth it so the world made sense.
Moments away from being irrevocable.
If Julia couldn’t bear the asking, how could she ever bear the answer?
“The transplant committee moved Dillon up. He’s near the top of the list,” Dr. Ann Rosado said. She was a pediatric gastroenterologist at Cedar Springs Medical Center, specializing in liver diseases. The Whittakers had known her all of Dillon’s life.
“Just near? Not at?” Matt was rubbing his stubbled head as if he could massage this fact into something closer to his liking. They hadn’t been home in two days. His gray slacks were wrinkled at the knees and his oxford shirt was stained with salad dressing. He had shoveled food into his mouth to set the example for her. You have to eat, he’d said.
Yeah, Mom, Dillon had said. You have to eat. He had made an attempt on her behalf, picking apart a muffin and smearing scrambled eggs on his plate.
Black coffee and Red Bull was all Julia had patience with. The acid in her stomach was a welcome relief from that sinking sensation of time slipping away.
Of Dillon slipping away.
She dug her fingernails into her palms and stared at the pictures of children on Annie’s wall. Some were pink-cheeked with health, others had sallow skin and shadowed eyes–the autumnal shades of liver disease.
Thirteen years ago, Julia had studied the pictures, looking for a sign of hope. “Are these the survivors?”
“I don’t differentiate,” Annie had said. “They are all my patients.”
“But which ones are still a–” Julia hadn’t been able to finish the question. The cruelty that children could be born blighted and die without a future was unbearable.
“They all live in my heart,” Annie had said. “They all live in God’s heart because He doesn’t differentiate either.”
Where was God’s heart today, after thirteen years of dealing with this? Certainly not in that void between how and long.
She curled her fingertips into the arm of the sofa and counted the lights on Annie’s Christmas tree. There were no “Wait Until Christmas” tags on the presents because some children–like Dillon–could not wait until the twenty-fifth.
Julia had bought her son’s gift a month ago, the expensive Arriflex 235, which would allow him to shoot video underwater. She and Matt nixed the notion of a motorcycle rig that would allow him to shoot high-speed chases.
When I’m sixteen I’ll get my own motorcycle, Dillon had said, even as his blood pressure climbed and the toxins backed up in his liver like a clogged sewage pipe. Sixteen was more than three long years away and, even if she dared to let Matt ask how long, three years weren’t possible.
Not without a transplant.
Excerpted from To Know You by Shannon Ethridge and Kathryn Mackel. Copyright 2013. All Rights Reserved. Published by Thomas Nelson, Nashville, TN. Used by Permission. Not to be copied without Publisher’s prior written approval.