Isaac, my 5-year-old son, ran up excitedly and announced, “Mom, I can go all the way across the monkey bars; come watch!”
It was spring of 2013, and my family was at my parents' house for Easter. Successfully traversing the monkey bars was an accomplishment Isaac had been attempting for months.
My 2-year-old daughter, Eleanor, and I followed him outside and stood on the patio clapping while we watched him make his way from one end of the play set to the other. He reached the end, and Eleanor ran out to stand under the bars, grinning up at him. I congratulated Isaac from the patio and started to turn back into the house when his next sentence stopped me.
“I’m going to go across again!” He started back across the bars.
Immediately the impression came to my mind that if he attempted another crossing, he would fall. With Eleanor underneath, looking up at him, a serious injury could occur.
I jogged towards the bars and called out, “Wait a minute until I get Eleanor; I don’t want you to accidentally fall on her.”
It happened so fast. The sentence had barely left my mouth when Isaac’s grip started failing. Little sister was beneath, entranced by his progress and unaware of the danger. His progression stopped and he hung from the bar, desperately trying to hold on. But he was too tired. With all the practice he had done that day, his arms couldn’t hold on any longer. Isaac fell into a heap on the grass below. Eleanor collapsed as well.
From my vantage point I couldn’t tell exactly what had happened. But two kids crying told me it wasn’t good.
Once I reached them, I saw that Isaac was about a foot away from my daughter. Eleanor was sitting on the grass unhurt, crying with fright. Isaac, though, was clenching his elbow, rolling on the ground and shrieking in agony. He was hurt. Badly.
I picked up my son, and took him to the house. His arm hung at a funny angle, and I could tell something was wrong.
During the next week, we made visits to the Instacare and finally orthopedic doctor. After many X-rays, Isaac was fitted with a cast. All the doctors and nurses were confused and made the same observation: Usually when kids fall from monkey bars, their arms or wrists are injured, not their elbows. They explained to me that a person’s natural reaction is to throw his or her arm out and try to stop his or her fall, resulting in those more familiar injuries. Then they asked how Isaac managed to have his elbow hurt, an uncommon injury for a playground fall.
I thought back to that Easter evening when Isaac had been hurt. I remembered when he had fallen, he had been clutching his arm tightly to his side. Beneath him, Eleanor had escaped unscathed. After all the curious comments from the doctors, I approached my son and asked why he had been holding his arm so tightly to his body.
His explanation was simple: “I didn’t want to fall on Eleanor.”
My 5-year-old had overruled his body’s natural inclination of self-preservation in order to keep his little sister safe. Instead of breaking his fall by throwing out his hand, and likely injuring her, he had tucked his elbow in and forced himself to take the brunt of the fall. And it had happened on Easter.
More than 2,000 years ago, another big brother ignored his own physical well-being and sacrificed himself for his siblings. Instead of merely sacrificing his elbow, he gave up his life in order to save us all.
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While Easter has always been one of my favorite holidays, experiencing my son’s sacrifice has made the day more personal. Witnessing his love and concern for his younger sister helped open my eyes, just a little bit more, to the kind of love and concern Jesus Christ has for each of us.
Elizabeth Reid has bachelor's degrees in economics and history. She has worked in retail, medical billing, catering, education and business fields. Her favorite occupation is that of wife and mother. She blogs at gelatoandchocolate.blogspot.com.