what we're about

Attempts to illuminate our brief mortal existence

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

On pain

I carried Christopher into the study room last night for his bedtime story with his dad.  He's a wiry baby, all upright body and active limbs, with barely an ounce of superfluous flesh.  As I held him, facing away from me, I felt his little tummy move with his breaths - out, in, out, in.  Effortless life.  And for a moment, caught in that boundless vitality, I saw a reality that I'm aware of, but don't often feel.

I saw myself and my Little Guy mapped over other mothers, other infants; people who are occupying my thoughts, but as they once were, not as they are now.  I saw my grandfather, my Saba, once the small infant of another woman.  I never met his mother, and I know so very little about her.  Could she possibly have ever imagined the moment on Saturday when we buried him?  Could she have pictured her tiny child become an old man, white bearded, leaving behind, after nearly 62 years of marriage, a widow, 8 children, their spouses, 42 grandchildren, and 6 great-grandchildren?  I don't know if she could have.  My own tiny child is one of the six, and this future is too strange for me to imagine.

For another fraction of that moment I became my aunt, holding her own firstborn son 30-some years ago.  She and I share the position of being the first girls born into our respective families, and her firstborn is the oldest grandchild of her parents, as is mine for my own parents.  This image brought a flash of panic, a flare of anger, and a threat of tears.  30-some years is easier to imagine than 80, and that firstborn, my oldest cousin, is lying in a hospital bed in Mexico recovering from stab wounds in his chest.  His little tummy breathed against my aunt's hand the way that Christopher's does against mine.

Kyrie eleison.  Christe eleison.    

This child, this little man who lives and moves and breathes in my arms, has cracked open some of the deepest veins of joy in my heart, and yet his every breath draws me in, closer than I ever wanted to be, to all the heartache of this moment in my family's life.


  1. I think every mother shares a bit of Mary's pain, knowing from the beginning that in some way a sword will pierce our souls someday.
    Beautiful post.

  2. Lovely post, my dear! And the wonder and pain of motherhood has never quite left..