Originally posted October, 2014.
We lost our two-year old daughter Lucy last November to a sudden onset of tracheitis and laryngitis in her sleep, resulting from a virus she had been fighting. Her brother Tobin (15 months younger) had the same virus that week and passed it along to her…my husband Jonny is in commercial agriculture and I’m an English major/Aesthetician. We live in Nebraska, and Tobin will be two in December.
How can the same world house a wide beach sunset, purples and pinks scattered as waves roll in from an infinite, distant peace? The soul-cleansing sweat of a good yoga class, a country road run in the autumn? And then, varicose veins and the first grey hair. Being infuriatingly misunderstood, at once dehumanizing ourselves and our beloved as we spit back words as sharp as our hurt.
The profile of a child sleeping, safe in the glow of a small night light. Memories of family vacations: the smell of moss, the wonder of towering green all around, the sound of mountain streams ice-cold. Then viruses, parasites, predators…poverty and misinformation that stifle comfort, achievement, and security.
The swell of a pregnant belly, the temperature of newborn life skin-to-skin: A perfect pink newborn girl with black hair. Then, the fluorescent lights of an emergency room on a cold November night. The temperature of skin too cold, senses stunned at a child lifeless after every possible measure has been taken.
This beauty and horror we’re all walking together, for a time—no answers shoot deep enough into the mystery, when it really matters. I’m angry that my baby had to die, because I’m scared to die. So angry she can’t have a baby of her own, open her Christmas stocking, try wine, talk to her brother. So mad she can’t live, because despite it all, I still want to—though there’s a new peace in death because she did it, and I can do it too.
Courage couldn’t exist without peril. Love wouldn’t be so beautiful if it weren’t for all the understanding and forgiving and overlooking—arms wrapped around each other at night over all of the imperfection, holding another mess of a human close. Good can exist because of bad and humans can shine in the fight, and maybe it’s a hint to this story we’re in.
This battlefield we enter with our first shrill, gummy cry. We walk the spectrum, innocent infants held warm and then one day old, bent over ourselves. There’s nothing that can make a single handful of earth over Lucy’s grave worth it, but as I walk in this season of darkness, I have hope that redemption will be bigger than a scale that weighs events and outcomes. I have hope that beach sunsets are a promise, and not a tease—perhaps they look back at us in their final blaze and think we’re even more beautiful, battered but hoping as the waves roll in.
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