Yesterday I was able to see my sister’s newborn son and they were such a sight! I am not a believer in magic, but there is something magnificent, miraculous, and yes, even magical about newborn babies and their mothers. They gaze at each other and you can see the love flowing from the set of newborn eyes to his mother and back again. They are intensely interested in each other, learning every shape and smell of the other. Baby knows his mother’s arms, her breast, and her voice and nothing satisfies him like she does. Such beauty.
My sister happens to live across the street from the cemetery where our first daughter Eve is buried, and since it was such a sun-shiny, no-mosquito kind of day, I asked my husband to pull in so I could visit her grave. Whenever we pull in to the cemetery, we turn off the radio, roll down the windows and drive slowly to the back where my mom’s family is buried. On our previous visit a few months ago, I noticed they had pulled up all the mature bushes that lined the back fence, and even though some of them were so overgrown that it was hard to see the headstones of the back row, I was saddened by it and made a plan to put some new shrubs there and maybe a pretty tree to shade our family’s graves. Well, the first thing I noticed as my 6 year-old and I walked through the graves, hand in hand, was that they had planted new bushes all along the back. For some reason, it brought me joy.
At the grave, I stood there staring at her heart-shaped bronze headstone, and watched the sunbeams shining on it. I reached down to touch it, knowing the warmth would be like a balm to a heart that ached again for my little daughter. But it was not warm. It was cool. I found myself surprised and brought back to that moment more than seven years ago, when as I was washing Eve’s body and dressing her in a little white gown with flower buds on it, I held her foot and for the first time since her spirit had flown away and it felt cool. I learned that sometimes no amount of a mother’s love can bring warmth where cool death resides.
Then I look at my big girl, now six years old. She never knew this sister of hers. She asks me questions like, “Will I get to see Eve in heaven? Will I recognize her? Will I get to play with her?” and I answer the best I can. We walk around, admire the serenity of the grounds, talk about who else is buried nearby, and go on our way. And as we near the car, she looks at me and exclaims, “Mama, it sure would’ve been fun if all those babies had lived. We could have a minivan!”
Ever since a recent trip to California when we rented a minivan for a week, we’ve all been dreaming of being able to buy a minivan. Right now, it would be foolish, since in about four months we’ll find out where we’ll be moving overseas, and we could end up somewhere that drives on the left, or where we don’t even need a car. But, maybe if we get posted somewhere where a minivan would be a good thing, then yay! we get to tool around with plenty of room between all the people, and room for a few extra!
Then I look at my daughter, and at my sleeping baby girl in the car, and at my son. And I realize two things: 1- if we hadn’t had any miscarriages or deaths, we would need way more than a minivan. And 2- if the first four of our children had all lived, we might have never had our two daughters who I spend everyday with. Not that one should view the world this way, but still. I look at who our family is, and the way God has formed us, and I’m thankful. Thankful for every baby I carried in my womb, no matter the length of time.
As we drove away, I wept. I wept for the spot of grief, for the place of absence that hurts. And I wondered, who will come to bring flowers to my daughter’s grave on her birthday? Who will check things out from time to time and take a picture for me? It is difficult to realize that I will not be the one to exercise my motherliness whenever the need arises. My husband held my hand. He knows me. He loves me. And I love going through all of what this life brings us, together.