A couple of weeks ago, I visited a cemetery. It's a military cemetery, I believe, small and intimate and ancient-feeling. I have gone there before, because I find cemeteries peaceful, and because they help me to think more clearly about life and God and death. But this time I went looking for something different.
I went looking for the babies. The ones who died before birth, whose graves are marked by a single date, and the ones who died weeks or months after birth, cradled in their parents' arms for too short a time.
Even though the cemetery is small, there are rows of children's graves there. Perhaps a fifth of the graves in this place died so excruciatingly young. They stand together in the cemetery's sunniest corner.
I went there, and sat. I thought of the parents who must have wept in the very place I rested, and I wept, too.
I wept for them, for the unfairness of it all. To have gone through an entire pregnancy, or most of one, only to lose your child at the end? It is such a robbery. It feels like God and nature have betrayed you, even if you don't believe that they are capable of such a thing.
I wept for me. For my loss, my daughter. My daughter. For all the ways I cannot love her, because she is not here. Sometimes I still can't believe that this happened to us, to me, to her. How is it possible??
I wept at how my daughter Eve's death and absence have changed my life forever, altered my course so that nothing can ever be the same, even though many of those changes are turning out to be good.
I wept at the grave of this unnamed baby girl because my baby girl doesn't have a grave, and sometimes I regret that. Her ashes rest on a shelf in our spare bedroom/nursery, because I was too afraid that if we buried her and then had to move away from the place that holds the primary physical remainder of her tiny life, it would break me more than I already have been broken. I am glad that we can take what little we have of her with us wherever we go, and that I have the choice to release her ashes when the time feels right -- but sometimes I just want to water her grave with my tears.
I keep thinking that I am healing, getting better -- only to realize once again that there is no "getting better." This is not something to get over. I haven't gotten better, I have only gotten better at living with the abyss of her absence in my heart.
So if I do things that seem strange, like going to cry at the lonely grave of some unnamed child who died eighty years ago, I hope you'll understand that sometimes that's the best I can do.
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