Saturday, November 22, 2008
NINE MONTHS: 11/21/08
This morning I stepped right into the routine. I staggered out of bed at 4:30 am and let our dog, Ida, outside. I stood on the patio and braced myself with the chill morning air. The sky was clear and dark as it can only be when the moon is down. The stars were in their glory, shining the brighter for the darkness. As I stood there taking it all in, wondering what the day would bring despite my efforts to order it and keep it all safely predictable, I saw what we used to call a falling star streak across the sky. Falling star, meteor, or space junk? A sign? A portent for a day already fraught with significance, or just another piece of meaningless debris from the unknown reaches of space, disintegrating in the atmosphere before it can be identified?
Nine months. It was on a day that began much like this one nine months ago that we received the news that Rachel had been killed. There were signs, but I could not read them. That night there had been a lunar eclipse. It began to rain. I don't believe in signs. But I do believe it is human to try to connect the dots, to make constellations out of the scatter-shot of stars, to impose where we cannot recognize some significance, some bigger picture.
I dreamed last night of a powerful spirit being, a force of nature personified, that attacked the restaurant I was in (O.K. it was Carl's Jr., if you must know), ripping the roof off and hurling it at the structure - at me. It was a towering, dark pillar of cloud, like a tornado, vaguely but recognizably human in shape. And it had a name. It was on the tip of my tongue, but I could not speak it, and all my efforts to identify it through research ended in frustration.
That is part of the struggle. Is there some personal force behind the seemingly random and impersonal calamities we suffer? Is it a personal attack? Can the assailant be identified and named?
Nine months. The time it took to produce and reveal the miracle of Rachel's life. Of all the terms used to describe that period, I like the word "expectant" the most. It perfectly captures our state. We were waiting for a miracle. But we were not waiting in vain: we were expecting it, anticipating it. We knew this miracle would arrive as surely as the new day, as joyfully as all our childhood Christmases. We marveled as the miracle grew day by day, barely concealed beneath the skin of Jill's swelling belly. We hoped and we wondered. And we were acutely aware of how small a part we played in the magic happening before our eyes. We simply welcomed a child. Love prepared a place, and Rachel grew into it. Of course, when she arrived, she was not what we expected. She was something wholly different, other, new. We do not possess the powers to imagine such a thing. Rachel was a pure gift. We received her and were perfectly, abundantly blessed.
Nine months. We are no longer expecting. This is a period marked by loss. And it is indefinite and terminal. Nothing has been birthed in us but grief in all its aspects, and we expect nothing else. All that we know of the miracle we called Rachel in this life has been revealed. The rest is remembering. What makes it so difficult is that we know what we have lost. There are so many children we could have had. But we do not know to miss or mourn them. We had 18 years to learn how much we loved Rachel. Now she is gone. And that makes all the difference.