Inhale. Exhale. Jeff Buttars looked around the tiny pre-surgical room and reminded himself to keep breathing. As his chest rose and fell, so did his spirits. His wife, Tiernae, appeared calm, confirmation that this decision was the right one. His infant son, William, stirred and beamed, a soft expression that landed hard. I’m leading a lamb to slaughter, Jeff thought. Inhale. Exhale. The sound of his measured breaths drowned out the room’s ambient beeping and buzzing but could not hush the ripple of doubt.
Jeff gathered the baby in his arms, and the family made its way toward a set of swinging metal operating-room doors. On the ground a few feet in front of the doors, a swath of yellow tape marked the threshold to the unknown. In the days leading up to William’s surgery, the choice the yellow line represented had seemed clear, but as they walked forward, it now appeared blurred.
Are you praying hard enough? Jeff’s brother had asked, meaning well. Are you listening for the answer? The prayers—are they the right ones? As though there existed a combination Jeff had not yet considered. A financial professional who worked in the home-loan sector, Jeff made it his business to eyeball numbers, size-up odds, and foresee outcomes. Probability begat prophecy in his world. Now little of that mattered. The decision he was making with his wife affected not a stranger but their baby, and the potential outcomes (slow death, fast passing, a medical miracle), he believed, were in the hands of God.