Stabat Mater

Three years ago on this evening, I made the happy discovery that we were expecting our third child. The baby was a surprise, but very wanted. I started taking prenatal vitamins. I speed walked my first 5k, unable to go very fast due to morning sickness. (I came in 10th from the end.) Around two weeks later, at 2:22 am on February 26, 2013, I woke up with a terrible pain. I knew what it must mean, but I went back to bed, hoping it was food poisoning. The next morning around 7, there was our wanted one, together with her placenta, gone.

I held her in one hand and said what I say to all of my children. “I’m so grateful to be your mother. I thank God for you. I love you, my wonderful child.” We told the older children. We all cried on the bed. I found a beautiful velvet box and placed our lost one in it. I poured in spikenard and myrrh, fragrances the spine knows as grief. And love.

I went to the midwives and stopped by the church to talk to a priest. Good news tucked in bad, a good miscarriage. A complete one. The terrible knowledge of healing. Our older children kept watch and wept. We picked the only flowers in the yard, frost-touched mint and daffodils. The priest came and led us in a funeral, consecrating a tiny plot in our yard.

This isn’t a post about awareness, and I’m not asking you to give me a political opinion. I’m writing to tell you that, as much as any child, our lost Seraphim taught me to be a mother.

People tell you to pray in grief, as though the “please, please, please” of your heart had stopped. Platitudes abound about looking upward from the depths. They are the words of fools.

Grief does not reach up. Grief reaches sideways.

I reached sideways in the dark, and I found the hand of my husband, of true friends, and of the Mother of God. Because she sang it to me, I learned what mothers do. Mothers stand.

The Mother stood at the foot of the cross. Mothers stand. We bend over to make sure the child is breathing through long nights. We stoop to dance our children. We kneel to comfort and listen. We stand.

We stand because you need to see us there with you. We stand because there is grace in the world. We stand, because from the moment the baby came into the world, we saw this coming. We knew the cups of our bellies were cups of trembling. That life is a drink of joy and sorrow. Grief is the wrinkle that lets you see the mother’s smile at night.

Each of us has some way to mend. Hiking, sewing, working with yarn, painting, cooking, teaching a child to read, giving alms, shining tables or shoes. Singing. If you want to know the sound of grief, there is nothing closer:

The [Oregon Symphony translation] is a good one.

Reach sideways, my friends, in the dark night. 

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