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The power of touch

I contract dysentery [contagious intestinal infection] at age five. In East Germany this means hospital quarantine- 5 weeks of isolation from the rest of the world. No one is allowed to visit, not even our parents. We sit in oversized cribs that feel like cages, waiting our turn to go home. We’re bored mostly and sometimes sad though we don’t cry. Nurses absent-mindedly place trays of bland food in our cages. Some smile a little, others frown. One nurse is mean, brushes my hair roughly, blames me for spilling something, pushes me in a corner.

Where is God, I wonder, when nurses get snappy and push kids in corners? Perhaps at church or up in the sky. I am not sure how this helps the hurting. I loathe being a burden, silently vow to take care of myself from now on. Self reliance becomes my shield, a place a feel safe and in charge.

The illusion of control shatters through loss and I feel myself falling apart. It’s a terrifyingly strange experience. I don’t have an ounce of strength to birth Sophie, my daughter who no longer lives. I hate myself, my body now bearing death. Love fails here, has no power to save. Raw, humiliating defeat. I don’t want anyone near, already know how to suffer alone.

Julie is my labor and delivery nurse, a beautiful girl about my age with dark hair and striking blue eyes. She walks into my room, into my mess, amazingly knows just what I need. I am not used to be seen in my pain, too weary to hold up defenses. Her spirit is calm, quietly confident. I relax a bit, allow her closer. She listens attentively to my story broken up by uncontrollable sobbing; I don’t get how this does not make her squirm. At times she gives voice to the wordless ache of my heart. Julie fearlessly descends into my pit of sadness, sits next to me, helps me feel sadness and anguish, fear and despair. I am convinced these emotions would eat me alive if I faced them alone.

At one point she climbs onto my bed, wraps her arms around my weeping body. A lifetime of grief runs down my cheeks, onto her shoulder. She is unwavering compassion, steadfast love. She holds me like this until I run out of tears.

I have heard about unconditional love, believe in it. Now I actually feel it. It’s like God finally decides to show up. Sacred energy, unbridled affection torrentially pours into my wounded soul. Julie’s arms become His. Love needs no words. Love is compassionate touch, the arms of a stranger.

We are children of the light, vessels of love. We’re broken and brave, loved and loving. We can’t afford to hide our gifts, there are too many broken hearts.

Amazingly, Julie and I become friends. She inspires me to feel, to lean into vulnerability, gives the longest ever hugs. I am good at make her dinner.

Our writing prompt for #livefreethursday is “The power of touch.” I immediately think of Julie.

I text her to ask if I can write about our story which happened seven years ago. Off course, she replies, adding:

“I love you like crazy”.

Crazy love changes us, fills our wounds, makes us feel less alone.


Julie and I one year after this story, same hospital, new baby. This one gets to come home.



11 Replies

  1. What a beautiful story of love in action! So wonderful how God used her to touch you where you needed it most. It’s so great that you’ve become such good friends, too. I’m visiting from the #livefreethursday linkup.

    1. Astrid Melton

      Thanks, Gayl. I loved your post about dad.

  2. Astrid, your beautiful words brought tears to my eyes and I am thankful for your happy ending here. You have such a way of writing so I feel like I’m right there next to you in this story. Keep that up! Love to you, have a great weekend! Kim

    1. Astrid Melton

      Thanks, Kim. Telling a story is the easiest kind of writing for me.

  3. Astrid, what you can express in such few words is a deep blessing. . . and the more people who discover your writing, the more people who will be blessed.
    I am thinking of that young girl in a crib that became a cage; of your parents not allowed to see you and the grief and worry they experienced; of your life being raised behind the Iron Curtain.
    To me, your life is a miracle.
    God did not give you an easy life as a child. (You have much to share with us.)
    But, as an adult and young mother, He poured His love upon you through a young woman who knew how to love. And now your words, from your own experience, bless others… and He is using you to share His love with many more!
    I thank God for you, for Julie, and all that He is doing in your life.
    I love you!

    1. Astrid Melton

      Thanks Voni. I love how God comes for us in our broken places- maybe not the first or even second time but at some point there is redemption and a reframing of our story. I have learned to be accept and release some of my pain- in the grand scheme of suffering it’s a small offering. I love you too.

  4. Laura Whidden

    Beautifully, bravely told, Astrid. These words are raw and refined all at once. Let me know when you are ready to do a Kickstarter to fund your first book. I’m ready to donate. Seriously.

    1. Astrid Melton

      sweet. nothin’ like the fam cheering ya on. love ya.

  5. How sweet a story is this? Beautiful. I just love Astrid, how God appoints just the people we need at just the right moment, don’t you? I am so glad he brought you through. I adore your heart and your words. Cheering you from the #RaRalinkup on Purposeful Faith, faithful friend.

  6. What a heartwrenchingly beautiful story! Thank you for sharing it with us. I cried with you and griefed my losses with you. They are surely too heavy to carry alone.

  7. Laura

    Thank you so much for sharing this beautiful and vulnerable piece of your story Astrid…

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