What phase is the moon in tonight? The woman asks the boy. Waning gibbous, he answers after a squint and a wave of his hand at the glowing orb, close enough to touch. She asks herself if she should look at the pictures, they could look at the photographs together. Decides it is too soon. No clouds to hide them, nothing but clear skies in the forecast as each fresh loss had come
In the sunny days
The moon and a neighborly planet shine bright, two boats in the current of night
While the trees reach out to one another
I tell myself you are in another country which is more than true, more than doggedly-what-I-see-true.
You are in another country no sun lights the so blue sky there and we will
All be changed.
He was so pretty we thought he was a she, but fierce, a climber and a player, a napper and a hunter. At first I thought it was losing his mother, then I thought other things, increasingly more desperate until the end was a wild wail of hope and then the kind of grief that comes when hope dies as well.
He was our tiny harbinger. The first clue of what was to come.
We all get new names there.
I have this picture in my head of her snuggled next to her mother. Familiar fue, familiar skin. Cats are predators but they are also small and fragile.
Miracle taught me so much about both strong and fragile. I cannot say I have come out on the other side of grief from losing her.
Maybe we never come out on the other side. I regret so much, but not the time we had together.
Wish words were the petals of flowers, thrown along the path to the altar.
Scientists (at least the social ones) love to navel gaze at the belly buttons of the religious.
I get it. We are a messy, heterogeneous bunch. As I get older I get less and less religious but more and more convinced in the power of the God of Love.
Take this week for instance. This week we threw our all at trying to save a litter of kittens from panleukopenia.
When my children poured out their grief in each loss they said, I just want them to know that I love them. I just want her to know I love her. I just want him to know I love him. Or directly to the dead–
I just want you to know I love you.
When you believe in a compassionate, omnipotent God, getting love notes to kittens is no biggie. He keeps what we have committed to Him against that Day.
Even if the day is Friday.
Even if you thought the last one might make it through.
Even if the patient weighs less than a pound.
Impending demise might make some pragmatic, other it pushes on to say, no matter what
I love you
On earth as it is in heaven.
(In a time-keeping nod to newcomers) on “Thursdays” the cows are in charge. Always close to the Grown Up Manger Child,
All chew their cud
In the greenest pastures
And amble down to the wide, wide River of Life
To drink whenever we want.
I believe in regrief. I believe you and I will continue to regrieve the death of your mother. Recently we lost all four of our kittens to a fast moving, devastating affliction. In a week we went from joyful to devastated.
And I regrieved, the way I lost them reminding me of the way I lost you. The pain of one overshadowed by the pain of the other–even after 20 years.
Both griefs were characterized by my naive belief in the authorities in each case–the judge, the caseworkers, the lawyers for the lost daughters, the veterinarians for the kittens.
In your case I discovered that the entire system all the way to the state regulators was riddled with greed, prejudice, and corruption. You and your siblings were sold or bartered in exchange for federal subsidies for your care. Your adopted father had not only abandoned his first family, he had placed all of his assets in your adopted mother’s name to dodge child support. At one point he faced a jail sentence for failure to pay child support for his children. Things which should have hindered his ability to adopt you.
And the kittens?
Their veterinary clinic was indifferent, too busy. They were not seen in time. I could not get them any help until I found another vet, and by that time it was too late.
So in the midst of grieving for the lost kittens, I grieve for you as well–you and your siblings, you and your beautiful mother.
She had no chance in the rigged system. She had no chance but me.
And I was not nearly enough.
You do load after load of laundry, grateful for the workhorse machine from a low-tech era and the hot Texas sun–ad hoc laundry assistant
You drag the oriental rug outside, wash it like a corpse before burial, ask if it can be saved
You scrub fabric, bleaching where you can, trying to wash out a virus which will not, does not, abate.
Push aside the agony of why you have to do all this. Walk this road. Pray for the resurrection of the dead and the impossible watercolors of heaven
Who art in heaven
Hallowed be thy name
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done
Here in us, as it is in heaven.
Even from a distance of 2000 years and a decent set of personal anecdotes about the constancy of God, not everything Jesus did or did not do makes sense to me.
Which helps when my prayers get different answers than what I want.
Because I do not need a Savior who feels the need to do what I find logical or necessary.
I just need a Savior.
I was born into a traveling family. Growing up I struggled with issues of identity and loss. What was home? What was this nagging sense of displacement?
I remember traveling in Italy as a young child and looking for the face of my grandmother in the crowd–despite my knowledge that she was not there. There was no chance that my middle-aged grandmother had jetted off for a Roman holiday in the spring of 1977
I had family members who I loved who did and said and believed things I did not. I found their beliefs deeply painful. How could I love them but not their way of seeing the world?
I settled on loving them but not the faults in their world views, and uneasy, precarious compromise, and one I have not much improved upon in all the years since.I struggle with disappointment in the collective institution of “family,” just as I have with “church,” “friendship,” “community,” and “club.”
People fail each other in big and little ways all the time, but Jesus never does. He is this extraordinary voice for justice, for love, for honor, for hope. His family resemblance marks the best of us.
Jesus does not look like a white guy in a flowing robe. He does not look like any of the famous pictures we have of him.
What he looks like is Love. Love that protects. Love that shelters. Love that never fails.
And that kind of family resemblance is hard to miss…when we find it among us in this broken world.
1 Corinthians 13