The Things She Heard- Sara Ryman
By Kate Berkey - February 1, 2018
Sara heard her breath catch in her throat as her world spun wildly. She sank to her knees, feeling the cold hardwood underneath. The voice on the other end of the phone call became muffled, another sound in a crowd of a million other things she heard.
Sara heard a beer bottle being opened, the pressure releasing.
“Here, try this,” the voice said.
Deep down she knew it wasn’t a good idea, but there was something about being in this place with these people that sparked a craving to silence the critics in her mind. They were the ones that told her she was too fat, not pretty, too different, not good enough, too loud, not loud enough. They were the ones that told her no one could love her, no one would accept her, no one should.
So she took the bottle and threw it back, feeling a warm burn begin to soothe her aching heart.
She was 16.
Sara heard everything that morning, the ticking of the clock down the hallway, the buzzing of the lights above, the sound of the wind against the house.
Everything was amplified after another night of drinking. The room spun as she lay in her bed, clenching her stomach.
Tears rolled down her cheeks as she called out to the void, “God, I can’t do this.”
In a moment, the void seemed to grow smaller.
“God, I can’t do this anymore,” she said louder this time.
Her old friend, the warm burn that soothed her aching heart, seemed to turn into a poison, an acid that travelled through her body.
“God, I can’t do this anymore,” she said again and again.
Gone. The urge to drink. It was gone. Her room became quiet, peaceful, the kind of safe haven it hadn’t been for a long time.
Her 21st birthday gift to herself was to enroll in AA.
Sara heard the plastic stick hit the sink.
She hadn’t realized she’d dropped it, but now the faucet dribbled on it. Or were those her tears? Was that shock and confusion leaking out of her eyes? She wrapped her arms around her stomach and tried to breathe.
She heard her heart racing in her ears.
Was this what a heart attack felt like? A panic attack? Was that little plus sign on the plastic stick supposed to make a woman feel like this?
The pregnancy test was positive one month after she became sober.
Sara heard the whispers.
She walked through the church holding tightly to the wiggly, soft toddler in her arms. She tried to cover up her left hand, keeping people guessing. Was she married? Was she not?
Everyone sins, but hers wasn’t easily hidden. That plus sign on the plastic stick gave way to a giant belly formed over nine months until the perfect baby girl was born. Two years later it gave way to a squirmy, happy toddler, the most beautiful daughter the world had ever known. But in a small town, it seemed like all eyes were on her. So she did her best to navigate the sideways glances and the whispers between spouses.
But somedays, she wondered if she imagined the glances or made up the whispers. When she looked around with eyes not jaded by the challenges of being a single mom, she realized that no one was looking at her, no one was watching her. No one was judging or whispering or pointing fingers. So she tried to silence the critics in her mind, this time with the truth of Scripture.
She was a single mom for six years.
Sara heard her baby’s newborn cry.
She felt the nurse lay him on her chest. She felt her husband kiss her cheek. She felt tears of joy and gratitude zigzag out of her tired eyes and down her hot cheeks.
This boy in her arms belonged to her and her husband. Her son was perfect, just like her daughter was perfect the day she was born.
She heard her husband whisper how much he loved her, how proud he was of her, how happy he was. She closed her eyes, laughter mixing with tears, and in that moment, it seemed like life could never be as sweet as it was then.
She was a wife. She was a mom. She was Sara.
Sara heard the computer keys underneath her fingers.
For the last hour she had frantically searched “bump on throat,” “thyroid,” “nodule,” “thyroid cancer.”
What she saw scared her. Iodine treatment. Isolation treatment. Biopsy. She looked around the room and saw them, the pictures of her family. She saw her husband, Corey, the man who loved her unconditionally, the man who had stuck with her as she worked through mountains of baggage. She saw her daughter, Savannah, the beautiful girl who had turned her life upside down in the best possible way. She saw her son, Wyatt, the tiny boy who was a tangible reminder of God’s restorative power. As fears overtook her, she wondered if her husband would become a widower and if her children become motherless.
Her cancer journey began.
Sara heard a still small voice that simply said, “Trust me.”
It belonged to the One who had taken away the desire to drink on her 21st birthday, and it was the same One who carried her through biopsy after biopsy, surgery after surgery, appointment after appointment.
She realized then that she wasn’t entitled to know why all this was happening to her. She wasn’t entitled to know why God was allowing her story to include cancer. She wasn’t a victim. She didn’t need to know why. This life was not her own.
“Trust me. Trust the process,” Sara heard the still small voice say once more. “I love you so much.”
She laid in a CT scan when she whispered back, “I trust you. I love you.”
Sara heard the woman on the other end of the line.
“You are cancer free!”
Sara knelt on the floor in disbelief.
In that moment, she heard the sound of the beer bottle being opened. She heard the hungover noises on her 21st birthday. She heard the sound of the plastic stick hitting the sink. She heard the whispers. She heard her son’s newborn cry. She heard the computer keys under her fingers. She heard the nurses’ words.
But above all, she heard that still small voice. “Trust me. I love you.”
She whispered back, “I trust you. I love you.”