Today I stood on holy, sacred ground.
It was beautiful, and terrible.
I should have taken off my shoes.
I'm not sure what to say about it, about meeting my friend's dead child and watching her hold him and pat him and kiss his tiny, sweet forehead. About listening to her make the decisions for her son that no parent ever wants to make. About crying with her as she handed his fragile body over to the nurse.
Except that it was beautiful.
And of course it brings me back to when I was the one being watched, I was the one making the decisions and cradling her child for the first and only time. When it was me sobbing as I stood over my sweet Eve's body, knowing it was time to say goodbye, to let the nurse wheel her away in her bassinet, and not being able to for some time.
No mother should have to give her child's body away to be burned to ash.
That is the terrible part.
The beautiful part is how peaceful it can be when a mother is holding her dead child close, exploring his delicate skin with trembling fingers, falling into devastating love with this tiny person who was, who is but is not here.
I am so grateful for that peace. I felt it when it was me and Eve, and it was wonderful to see my friend experience the same with her son.
And it was terrible. Because that calm in the storm of grief is so short-lived, and all too soon the bereaved mother is shoved back out into the world where everything feels so harsh and her heart is so raw that if feels as if she's walking around with no skin on and everything, everything hurts.
But I needn't have worried about the words. They flowed easily, at the right times, and much of the time we sat in silence in the place of birth meeting death.
I should have taken off my shoes and pressed my face against the cool tiled ground and cried out mercy, because there was so much of it, and yet not enough to stop the hurt from throbbing so.
But I am grateful to have stood witness, and am honored to have been invited into such a holy intimacy. It seems to me as if today was one of those days delineating "before" and "after." A pivot point on which your world turns and nothing ever looks quite the same.
Meeting Eve was one such point. Watching my friend meet her dead son feels like another.
As hard and horrible as the whole thing is, something clicked true in my soul about it, too. Something that has to do with calling. Maybe with calling to this. I don't know. I am afraid. I don't know.
I think I'll lay myself down and cry for that mercy now.
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