Saturday, March 29, 2014

Saying Yes

This post was originally written on Thursday, March 27th.

Tonight I took our almost five month old daughter who is named after my husband's deceased brother to the viewing for the niece of a good friend of ours who had just passed away at nine months.  It was one of the most beautiful experiences of my life.  I stood in a line of a hundred people, just waiting patiently to say a few words to her family and pray in front of her achingly small coffin.  It is almost three years to the day that we did this for Riley, standing in a packed indoor arena for eight hours while people waited to say a kind word and share a memory.

Her name was Issa, which means Jesus in Islam.  She lived only nine months.  She miraculously lived nine months.  She had Trisomy 18.  I never met her.  I have never even met her parents or anyone else in her family except her aunt and uncle, but they have taught me so much about love in the last year.  More than I thought was possible, even after going through the shattering marathon of Riley's death with my husband and his family.

Issa died on the Solemnity of the Annunciation, the day the Angel Gabriel comes to Mary and tells her she is to bear the Son of God.  The day Mary says "Yes."  Yes to being a possibly unwed mother (she didn't know if Joseph would stay with her after learning she was pregnant).  Yes to bearing the Son of God Himself.  The biggest "Yes" in the history of history.  And Issa died on this day.

Don and I were talking about Issa just a few days before she passed, were talking about the Yes her family had said in welcoming her into their lives.  All parents say this Yes, but usually without ever contemplating the exquisite joys and agonies that will follow.  We say Yes, we will welcome this child, without thinking that one day that child may be taken away from us.  That one day they may be called back to God sooner than we would want.  Sooner than was in our plan.  We believe that we will go first, and never have to experience the pain of losing something that we so joyously welcomed into the world.

When our plan and Gods plan do not match up, if our own Yes is ripped form us, the agony is shearing.  It is a limb amputated.  That child is part of our body, our life.  It is not supposed to be removed.  We said Yes, Yes to life.  We didn't know we were saying Yes to that life for as long as we could have it, we didn't know it was conditional.

But Issa's family did.

They knew that saying Yes meant also saying goodbye.  Maybe it would be a few hours, maybe it would be a few weeks, but they were going to have to say goodbye.  That one Yes, that incredible act of love and faith, has had unbelievable echos, as evidenced by the people packed into the small chapel just to pay their respects and say goodbye and share their stories.  As evidenced by these words, written by someone who never even met Issa.  Who doesn't know her parents or her family.

Her uncle once told me a story about an Irish priest who visited with the family, and met Issa for a time.  He called her the rock breaker, a flower in Ireland that takes root in the rockiest of soil.  As the seed grows, it literally breaks the rocks apart to push up toward the sun.  We are the fragile ones, he said.  She is a fucking rock breaker.

That is the miracle of a Yes.  Saying Yes lays us bare to rock breakers.  They seed themselves in our hearts, breaking us open as they push up toward the sun.  Incredibly painful and exquisitely joyful.

Thank you, Sean and Felicia, for your Yes.  Thank you for Issa.  I hope I can meet you soon to tell you in person how she has made love known to me.

Thank you, Matt and Susie, for your Yes.  Thank you for Riley.  I hope the joy that he brought to our world continues to battle the agony of his absence.

Thank you, God, for the miracles of my own Yes.  For Lucy Jane and Susan Riley.  For however long.

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