Wednesday, October 04, 2006


When Baby M passed away in June, people were angry. When he was first born, people turned to religion and that seemed normal. In the days just before his passing, however, people clung to religion with a kind of desperation that was unnerving, rather than comforting. I began to feel as though prayer and relics were becoming more of good luck charms than anything else.

At one point, my husband said to me, "I told God today that I would go to Church every week if [Baby M] lives." I put my arm around him and said quietly, "It doesn't work that way, you know. You don't get to barter with God." "I know," he said, "But I had to do something."

Personally, I went to church every day for 14 days during that period. I prayed the rosary constantly. The only distinction really, is that I usually do these things, just less frequently than every day.

So when Baby M passed, people took their anger out on God. Rosary beads were thrown, prayer cards were torn, God's name was taken in vain. For the most part, I was the one who picked up the beads, took down the prayer cards that seemed to be taped up everywhere and put them all in safe places. I spoke calmly with people as they ranted against God. I understood their questions. Why did something like this happen? How could God let it happen? I explained that we don't get miracles simply because we ask for them and that faith requires that we believe even though we do not understand. Of everyone, Baby M's mother seemed to understand this the most. "I know I can't have it both ways," she said, "I know I can't believe in a God who saves people, and yet turn my back on Him when he does not. It's just that I'm so angry." I thought these were eloquent words for someone so deeply entrenched in grief.

So during that time, I seemed to develop as the one spoke about God and religion the most and I was the one people turned to to talk about these things. I did not seem to feel the anger than my husband and others did. At the time, I thought what I felt was acceptance.

It's been over three months now and I can count on two fingers the amount of times I've gone to Church since then. I just came to this realization the other day and I was genuinely surprised that I was throwing away whole months of collection envelopes at a time. For someone who went to Church every week, I was struck with how effortless it was for me to stop going. And what was the reason? Why all of a sudden was I not going?

I'm not sure. Perhaps I'm staging an angry protest of my own. Maybe I wasn't as accepting as I thought.

I watched Elizabeth Edwards, the wife of the former vice-presidential candidate John Edwards, yesterday morning as she spoke of her new book, Saving Graces. The book seems like it's mostly about her battle with breast cancer, but the interviewer focused on a section of the book where Elizabeth first learns of her cancer and how calm she is about it. I don't remember the exact quote, so I'm paraphrasing a bit, but Elizabeth wrote about learning of her cancer something to the effect of "As a parent who has lost a child, I had the strange comfort of knowing the worst day of my life had already passed."

Elizabeth Edwards had a son who was killed in a car accident at age 16. So she felt that no matter what else occurred in her life, the worst had already happened. I was riveted by this because it echoed something I said outloud to friends when Baby M passed away. With the exception of losing my child, I cannot imagine that I would ever witness anything worse than what I experienced with Baby M. In reality, of course, that was a bit presumptuous. Since it was not my child, in fact related only by marriage, I was able to resume to my daily life rather quickly. But I do still think, with the exception of it happening to me, the experience of being there day in and day out was the worst thing imaginable. And I only think that because other family members who weren't there every day did not seem as effected by it.

I'm hoping that perhaps the one small, and strange, comfort to my sister-in-law is that the worse day of her life is over.


At 9:39 AM, Blogger Christy said...

This is beautifully written.

I really admire Elizabeth Edwards and am planning on reading her book. She speaks simply and plainly about grief and about how it changed her and her family.


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