at the center of the world

My empty hands the weekend my last waterbaby died, bare branches from this winter. 

This is not my grief to share, but I can share tangentially, and with care, so I will share what I can. Because we are all fragile and we all grieve (unless we are gone before we can truly grieve, and then we are grieved all the more, for the life we never got to live). I believe that sharing our grief is a way to help share the memory of our beloved's life, that their memory can become a blessing, a way to keep our love for one another alive. (A life, alive, in memory.)

Saturday my family was getting ready to go out into the rainy gray day. Picking up light bulbs and new windshield wipers before horseback riding lessons.

I can't remember who noticed the flashing red lights in the gray light coming through the living room window.

Our immediate next door neighbors had a premature (grand)baby last year; we've seen medical emergencies in the neighborhood a few times since then, but every time, thankfully, their baby had been ok. My first thought was that they had another emergency, but probably it would be ok.

But the emergency personnel didn't swarm to the house next door to us. They swarmed to the house across and a few doors down from us.

And my heart dropped. Another baby, also born last year, not premature, but with ongoing special needs. A family we know well enough to text schedule playdates with.

This is the neighbor I took the winter walk with last month. We're in that burgeoning stage of getting to know you friendship. Her son is six and he and Remy both love Star Wars and ninjas. She and I have similar backgrounds and interests, so it's a naturally evolving friendship. I just lent her one of my (remaining, hence special) baby carriers because her daughter was in a half body cast after hip surgery and didn't fit the carrier they'd been using. It gave me such happiness to see how much more comfortable everyone was in my old Ball Baby Overall (mine is a different pattern than these, but same style - so comfortable). Babywearing was one of my biggest pleasures as a new mom. I love sharing that joy.

The ambulance was coming towards the house as we were driving down the street towards our errands. Not a good time to text to ask what was happening. All I could do was send mettā (prayers for well being/ love/ strength. This has been a personal practice of mine since I was a teenager, strengthening my compassion for the world).

May all beings be loved. May all beings be free. May all beings know compassion. 

Prayer and well wishes can't change what is. Knowing that, I pray anyway. Knowing that, I dive deeper into compassion for this fragile world. Shit happens and people die and it sucks. And I am not immune and you are not immune and it is (eventually) fundamentally ok because this is just how life is. I ride the waves of joy and grief. I practice compassion. I practice sharing the world's grief.  It may or may not make it easier, when it is my time to grieve hard, but the practicing helps me here and now and so I continue.

Life stretches on. We are connected but we are separate. We are one but we are many. Life continues on, with and without us. Star dust in our veins, born billions of eons before this moment.

Remy had a sock/ toe/ boot issue while we were running errands. He's not good at describing what is wrong, so I thought maybe his feet had grown enough that the seams of his socks were hurting his toes and I was trying all sorts of sock combinations to help ease his discomfort. (It turns out that he had a splinter but he was completely unable to describe it and thought it was his "toes underneath each other".)

He were walking that not so fine line before a meltdown and I put all my attention on helping him get through it while M went shopping. Remy eventually decided no socks was the best. It took two errands and me staying in the car with him to talk him through to that solution. (And he still had a very distracted horseback riding session and I am deeply thankful to his teacher for her intuitive patience with both horse and child.)

After we'd decided his toes felt better with no socks, I pulled out my phone (which I'd inadvertently left on vibrate) to text M that all was finally well and discovered a text from my neighbor from much earlier that day, asking if we wanted a play date. I decided that was enough of an opening that I could text back and ask if everyone was ok. But I also let her know I didn't expect to hear back until the dust had settled (so to speak).

Sunday afternoon I got her text asking if she could call me. My heart slid out; I knew. All my focus turned towards her, towards making sure she didn't have to take on the additional burden of my response. What a shitty call to have to make (but I don't know her family or friends, so I guess there was no one else to call me). But I wouldn't otherwise have known about the funeral on Tuesday, so I'm glad she did call. It's hard to lend support on the phone, but I did my best. (She texted me later that night with specific questions, so I know I did at least ok.)

Later that afternoon, after we'd talked about plans for the funeral (and when we'll take them food), I said to M, "I really wish I didn't know exactly what to do after someone's child dies."

He said, "Yeah. It's a difficult gift to have."

Thank goodness he understands. He asks me, "What do we do? What do I say?" He puts on Cosmos before I come down from bedtime so we can watch something "life affirming" and then SNL because he knows I'll need to laugh, too. How grateful I am for him.

Somehow I have become an expert in grief and he has become a expert in helping me cope. I have watched other people grieve and I have grieved. And more, I have studied grief, with my heart in my hands, in poetry and art and research. I have grieved into my art and let spill the grief of others, a cup overflowing. Joy and love and grief and pain. This is all in my poeming and my photography and in my life.

This fragile life.

This fragile world.

This beautiful, fragile life in this beautiful, fragile world.

And oh, in some ways, I am a reluctant expert even though I know I have had to become an expert, to feel this world crushing grief fully. Who wants to know death this well? (Why me? Why my friends?)  But how can I afford not to, knowing this world the way I know it?

"Find me a house that hasn't know death," the Buddha says to the grieving mother in a famous (but cruel) parable. 

Everything that is born, dies.

Joy and grief at the center of the world, endlessly.