Death and the Woman

Once there was a woman who was good friends with God. They spent time together and talked daily. But Death came for the woman’s firstborn and after that God didn’t come around anymore. And really, who could blame God for staying away while Death was there? The woman didn’t much feel like talking to anyone, anyway.

But soon Death went away, and the woman was alone in her grief. Every now and then, the woman would say God’s name quietly, just to see if she would get an answer. But there was none.

Time passed and soon the woman was pregnant again. She thought surely her old friend would come to visit when the new baby came, so she prepared herself. She thought of what she would say to God, what stories she would tell, and all the other things she’d saved up.

So the days passed and the woman gave birth to a baby girl. And God didn’t come. Not even a phone call or card. The woman was hurt. Angry, even.

“God, where are you?” she called out. “I thought you would be here.”

The woman listened expectantly, rocking her daughter gently in the rocking chair, but she got no answer. She looked out the window and saw Death coming down the road. Bolting out of the chair, her new baby clutched to her chest, she barred the door and locked the windows.

“Get away from here!” she yelled out at Death. “Don’t you come again to this house!”

The woman counted a hundred rapid heartbeats, then, hearing nothing, she peeked back through the window. Death had gone.

A few months went by and the woman delighted in her motherhood, but sometimes things were hard and she felt very lonely. One sleepless night, she called out to God again, irritated, “It sure would be nice to have some help from you!”

A little while later in the early dawn, there was a knock on the door. The woman put down the sleeping baby and peered through the peephole. And there was Death on the porch.

Terrified, the woman threw herself against the door to barricade it. “Go away!” she yelled. “You already took my firstborn. Leave us alone!”

She counted a hundred heartbeats before she slowly put her eye back to the peephole. Death had gone.

By and by, the woman had grown used to God’s absence and didn’t think much about her old friend. But one day she got to missing God again, and she called out, “God, come and visit me! Let’s talk. It’s been so long.”

The woman looked out the window and again she saw Death coming down the road. She ran and barred the door and locked all the windows. “Why do you keep coming by here?” she yelled out as Death came up on the porch. “I already told you, you’re not wanted here!”

This time Death spoke, sounding a little annoyed. “You keep calling me.”

“I didn’t call you,” the woman said. “I was calling for my friend God.”

“Well, here I am!” Death said.

“No,” the woman said firmly. “You’re Death.”

“Ahh,” Death said then. “Open the door. We need to talk.” Death tapped on the door.

“No way,” the woman said, glancing nervously over her shoulder at her baby playing quietly with her toys.

But Death was persistent, and said she had something to explain that could only be understood by showing the woman. Death’s voice was so gentle, there was something almost familiar about it. So, hesitantly, the woman relented and lifted the latch on the door, and opened it.

Death stepped over the threshold and held out her hands, as if to say, “See? I’m not going to hurt you.” Then she waved one hand slowly in front of her face, and suddenly, instead of the old, hollow face of Death, there was the radiant and loving face of God.

“Oh, God, it’s you!’ the woman said, stepping forward to embrace her friend. But the hand dropped and once again the face of Death peered out at the woman from under the dark hood.

“I… I don’t understand,” said the woman, falling back a step.

“I have many faces,” Death said. “And many names.”

The woman still didn’t understand, so Death lifted one hand up and pulled back the hood.

The woman gasped. On Death’s head were three faces, looking in different directions so the other two had been hidden by the hood. One was the face of Death, and one was the face of God. The third she had only a vague recollection of, as if from a long-ago dream. As understanding settled in, she began to feel a bit ill and closed her eyes. Death pulled the hood back up.

“But if you are also my friend God,” the woman asked, “why do I only see you as Death?”

“Once you have seen the face of Death, it’s very hard to forget,” Death said sadly.

“Will it always be this way?” the woman asked. She met Death’s eyes.

“Some have learned to see my other faces again, with time,” Death said.

The woman looked away and down at the floor. “I think I need some time,” she said softly.

Death sighed. “I understand.”

At that moment, the woman’s daughter looked up as if noticing for the first time they had a visitor. She smiled broadly at Death and reached her hand up to give a pudgy wave. Death smiled back, and for a moment, the woman could almost make out the features of the third face.

“Well, I should be going,” Death said, heading towards the door.

“Yes, yes,” the woman mumbled, and went to show Death out.

Death hesitated on the doorstep a moment. “I hope you will call again.”

“I hope so, too,” the woman said.

Death turned to go, and the woman pushed the door gently but firmly shut.

 

I wrote this parable almost a year ago. Some days I think I still need more time. Other days I’m perfectly happy to keep that door shut tight.

© Burning Eye

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heavy

The news comes in the morning:

We lost him.

They did an emergency c-section.

 

It is pouring outside and I

Am nursing our baby

who shared his due date.

She, 8 days early,

Alive.

He, 2 days late,

Dead.

 

Their nightmare opens wide before me

A ton of bricks falling in slow motion, all day,

Piece by piece

On my bruised, heavy heart.

 

Over and over

I relive our own shock,

Our own early days.

Hearts, breasts, eyelids swollen from weeping.

I hear the echo of myself wailing.

 

As if, in reliving,

I could save them from the pain.

 

I go to sleep and wake again.

He is still dead.

 

I nurse our daughter again, alive.

He is still dead.

 

This world is wholly unfair.

One dead, one alive.

 

They will wake each day to the loss of him.

Each day a new insult:

The box of Enfamil samples on the front porch,

The coupon in the mailbox for nursing bras,

The email discounts on their baby registry.

 

I’m sorry, I whisper to each of them in the dark.

Because there is nothing else I can do.

 

© Burning Eye

 

The ground I walk on

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I meant to upload this when I posted my last poem. They don’t really go together, they were done at different times, but they feel similar. This walking on eggshells. It’s pretty abstract, but I see the eggshells as the ground I walk on, and underneath that thin layer of eggshells is darkness. I have to be really careful walking so I don’t fall through.

© Burning Eye

 

My Grief Monster

I’ve been feeling my grief lately more internally. Less like the Grief Monster I envisioned those first few months, less like something outside of myself, or something larger than myself that could consume me. Grief runs through my veins, like oxygen, like water. Yesterday was Joseph’s six month stillbirthday, and I felt him in my heart. Sometimes a warm light, sometimes a little too hot it burns, sometimes a secret tender place.

But I still think of my Grief Monster. It has been useful to personify Grief. Below is my original charcoal rendering. Clearly, it wasn’t enough to draw one, because on different days, I have a different relationship with Grief. Sometimes she is protective (those sharp teeth can keep others at bay). Sometimes she is menacing. Sometimes I get the best of her and can control her. Sometimes I want to escape. Other times she won’t let me in.

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© Burning Eye

Lifeboat

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A is my lifeboat. A lot of babylost mamas say their spouse is their rock, but a rock is too hard, too rough, too heavy to be a metaphor for A. So I say she is my lifeboat. It is because I have her that I know I will live. Because we love each other, cling to each other, I know we will survive. We are both soft, bouyant, both adrift in this sea of grief.

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In this one, we are afloat in a bathtub. One evening when I could do nothing else, she held me in the bath.

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Little by little, I have overcome certain fears. Fear of leaving the house. Fear of running into someone I know. Fear of being asked where the baby is. Little by little, I have connected with other babylost parents, and I don’t feel so alone. Now, in this sea of grief where A and I embrace on our raft, there are other rafts, too. There is company in this lonely journey.

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© Burning Eye