Angels dancing on the head of a pin dissolve into nothingness at the bedside of a dying child.

5 Feb

Looking out the window, my head pounding, sinus pressure making me wonder where my tongue fits in, I’m taken by how lovely such desolation looks. Snow covering my deck, the yard, the trees, blanketing the messes left by incomplete projects, time not had. The odd flakes glitters it’s way down from a random tree branch, and everything looks clean.

But baby, it’s COLD out there.

I ache this time of year for spring, for growth, for newness, that particular color of green in new grass, the anticipation of buds opening again. We know we’re on the downslope, that soon the shushed white of winter will turn warm and wet, breakdown, and follow itself into the sewers. We eye the seed packs in the store, imagine the garden we just didn’t get finished last summer.

We tense, waiting. We start remembering that the summer clothes won’t fit, start grabbing sandals now since they won’t be there in June. We smile remembering how delicious the air is come the end of May.

We know it’s all just one big dance, in circles, ad nauseum.


Today I received the news that a long-time coworker lost her daughter, her beautiful, vivacious 16 year old daughter, the spitting image of her mother, all soft caramels and long dark hair. The same laugh I imagine, and cautious approach. I stare at her pictures, read the comfort family and friends take in their god. Through tears I ask myself, as always, how on earth they can believe in anything that let something so precious as a daughter like this one leave.

I don’t have the answer, but I envy their comfort, the simple yet strong faith they have to propel them through this, through the utter horror of losing a child.

As a mother, holding my oldest, I’m broken hearted and speechless thinking of it, thinking of Vivian in 10 years, diagnosed with leukemia, going through chemo and bone marrow transplants and how she’d be strong and how it still wouldn’t matter, I’d still be closing her eyes for one last time on a narrow hospital bed, her wit and beauty and strength sapped and missing, fragile coat of a body left for us. As a mother I turn away in protection, my heart and mind finding it far to easy to understand what my coworker must be feeling today, not even 24 hours after they let her go.

I look for the beauty. I look for the covering snow for that life and I just can’t find it, and all the “maybe it’s what it should be” platitudes don’t make it ok. There is no spring to awaken to in this death, not buds to unravel, just the shortening of a life, the ending of what could be, and the sore broken hearts of a family.

I never knew this girl, a teenager in another country, her mother and I passing like sheets in the winds in different roles. She rarely ever spoke of the illness itself, and I understood. But there’s a level that mother’s can find and stand on-the horror of losing a child. We can know each other there, in the spaces where we love, and were loved.

Our winter stays there, hidden, and waits to wrap itself around us when we need it too.

9 Responses to “Angels dancing on the head of a pin dissolve into nothingness at the bedside of a dying child.”

  1. Hannah February 5, 2009 at 8:30 pm #

    I too can imagine only too vividly the pain that family must be going through… must have been going through all these months. I can hear Isaac in his room singing to himself as he tries to wind down and sleep. I want to go give him another hug.

    I envy people of faith when they suffer a loss or a tragedy, and their faith comforts them. I’m glad they have it, even though I don’t myself.

  2. Bon February 5, 2009 at 9:27 pm #

    i envy them, too, those ones who believe in a way i cannot. and yet i think even for many who do, in the privacy of their own hearts at 3am the platitudes you mention fall into the abyss that grief opens. i once had a conversation with my MIL – who is relatively devout in her Catholicism – wherein i discovered that there were more similarities than differences in how we grieved our children, despite their differences in age and our differences in outlook and belief.

    i hope that family are strong, and that those around them are gentle right now. i hope they find healing, and perhaps solace in the idea of an ever after with their girl.

    sixteen. sometimes i feel like i’ve barely started living, at thirty-seven. sixteen seems so little time to take in all this broken, beautiful world.

  3. Molly Chase February 5, 2009 at 10:21 pm #

    There are times that I envy people whose faith can sustain them through that kind of a loss. I wish I believed in something besides stillness and silence so much that it could heal me.

    I lost two babies to early miscarriage in the last two years and it still hurts so much I can barely mention it in passing. Nothing but the love of my family got me through it. But I got through it. I still am. I am happy to have survived it, and to be pregnant again now–this time for keeps, I hope.

  4. de February 6, 2009 at 9:35 am #

    Even though it was 9 degrees yesterday, I could feel the sun’s warmth through my windshield. The wheel has turned.

    Sometimes, when my head is not whizzing too fast, I get strength from the abyss, from simply acknowledging it, and its impartiality.

  5. jen February 6, 2009 at 12:38 pm #

    i agree. finding solace instead of rage. sometimes there is comfort in the sheer chaos of our existence (i like what De said a lot)

    but losing a child? i dont know how folks find their way back from that, no matter what you believe.

  6. bromac February 6, 2009 at 12:56 pm #

    I envy their comfort. This is why I will let my daughter choose a god if she wishes. I want her to have the comfort when she needs it, if she chooses it.

    So sad.

  7. crazymumma February 7, 2009 at 1:40 am #

    I think that faith can give words, a bandaid comfort. but I wonder if deep down, or shallow down barely hidden is the rage they feel at a deity that would allow such an unfairness.

  8. Feeling February 7, 2009 at 9:55 am #

    I know that the child will be missed by her family, but you can’t help but wonder if and when a major illness occures if death is less destructive to the family than a long battle with no end in sight.

  9. LarryLily February 10, 2009 at 2:34 pm #

    I lost my only daughter to suicide 16 years ago December. She was 15 at the time. The analogy of winter giving way to spring is good, but for a small part of my heart, it will always be winter.

    I KNOW what that family is going through and I dont wish it on anyone!

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