She was on my wife's side of the bed and so, while I ran downstairs to get a pot, my wife held her. As always is the case with vomit, I wasn't fast enough. And so by the time I arrived, she had already thrown up.
All over my wife.
What was amazing, in a very ordinary kind of way, was how tenderly and unconditionally my wife held and loved her. If that had happened to me, I probably would have cringed, or worse; but my wife is a patient as the Buddha. There was no judgment or recriminations, just the love of a mother for her sick child.
While I stripped the bed of its sheets, she continued to soothe my whimpering daughter, not in the least bit upset or repulsed by the stringent odor of vomit covering her.
I learned something that night about compassion and patience.
We would like to think that compassionate action takes some grand or noble form, like feeding the homeless or sacrificing one's life. But it can take more humble, prosaic forms.
In fact, I think it's the second kind that is the most challenging because it camouflages in with the rest of our lives--a smile to a sad friend, a patient reply to an impatient spouse when your nerves are frayed, or holding your feverish child at 2 AM when she's just vomited all over you.
It was inspirational for me, a humbling moment for someone who chants the Bodhisattva Vow every night and strives to engage the world with helping hands.
Teachers come in all forms, and that night it was my wife who taught me about simple human kindness, patience, selflessness, and compassion. I hope to follow in her example.
I love you, Jackie. Thanks for being such a wonderful wife and mother; you constantly inspire me with your unconditional love, compassion, and patience.
Photo borrowed from Creative Commons flickr user: Carol VanHook.