It is the in-between time again. Time out of time. Between his death in mid-December and his birth in late January. Everything around me moves in Holiday speed, but I always down-shift into a remembrance of grief, a wistful longing of what cannot be. I sink below the waves of a mystery.
In some ways you don’t survive the death of your child. Your imagined future dissolves with his thin bones. In some ways you become more alive having escorted your child into the waiting arms of death. To look deep into Her eyes and know that She will take everyone you love. And everyone you don’t yet.
The first time I held a dying child in my arms my body raged a fierce denial. There was nowhere to run, nothing to do but just hold his body while inside him – beyond my reach- all the tethers that anchored him to me snapped. In my helpless adrenaline-soaked state, I saw a vision so clearly before me. Waves of panic, fear, exhaustion, and blinding-aching love washed over my muscles and neurons. I saw people long dead, I saw people not yet born. A wall of sound and color in a never ending round spiraling through me made me feel as if I was holding onto a live-wire. I couldn’t let go. I didn’t want to let go. I only wanted to go with him. I only wanted more of that symphonic confusion to penetrate me. Maybe I would be able to understand. Just let me hold him until I understand. I am still trying to understand. I am still working to rebuild my neurology out of some finer substance capable of processing the encounter more fluently. I dream of removing the network of pathways, that gorgeous web suspended in the seas of me, and tinkering here and there until all that information can flow freely without blowing the system. Without all the white noise and static and confusion that comes also. Help me see clearly.
The first time I held a dying child in my arms any differences that separated good folks from bad folks vanished. There were only children, fathers, and mothers. Humanity stripped down to a naked shiver. Primal. Primary. A wave reverberated through my bones and echoed out from the widening crack in me through our tiny town and the corn fields, speeding beyond to the seas, over the seas and embracing its own boundary as it encompassed our whole gorgeous blue planet. An instant flash of eternity. I stayed at the center and I travelled out with the edge. I was suddenly seeing through the eyes of every Mother on the planet who in that moment was holding her dying child. Every Father stood near me wailing his grief. I saw in stark detail how lucky I was to be safe, what blessing this hated emergency room really was, how the luxury of praying peace over the dying should not be taken for granted. Right now, in this moment, there are so many who would welcome that allowance.
The first time I held a dying child in my arms the stars fell out of the sky. We watched with numb gaze as cosmic flowers dropped cold, bright seeds into the exposed soil of our broken-open hearts. It is clear again tonight and I will dance with the Geminids again. Another gift he left, this intimacy with the late winter asteroid shower. I look forward each year to their falling. It is the only telegraph I ever get from my rambunctious son who left home so early. The one time of year I get word from him.
These are the ashes we are born from. We died there as we held him. We couldn’t have survived it. No parent can. Not when your sacred duty is to keep this child safe. We lost friends when -for years-picking up the phone was too much work. The treasures and the terrors were not something we could share. There weren’t words. Feelings got hurt. We didn’t care. They are only feeling some faint echo of what we saw looking deep into Death’s eyes while we pled for his life. Everything we thought we knew burned with him. Germination feels a lot like death to a seed.
So, I won’t be at the party again this year. I am honoring this time out of time. Sinking beneath the waves of a mystery. Wrapping myself in the dark inception that overwhelms me at the turning of the year. I am bust tinkering with that gorgeous web of light in the sea of me. Busy stretching at my edges and bursting at the seams. I am busy being born.