One woman gets a phone call and falls on her knees, a knife's point cracking her breastbone to dig deep into her heart.
One elderly mother stands at the grave of her middle-aged child and wonders how.
One woman takes down four plates from the cabinet and bursts into tears.
One woman hears sirens in the middle of the night and starts to pray.
I've never given birth, but something in me trembles at the sight of a bereaved mother. I grip my empty womb and try to fathom her depths of pain, failing utterly.
Elizabeth Stone wrote, "Making the decision to have a child—it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body."
A mother who has lost her child is still a mother, but her heartstrings stretch across eternity into a place she cannot go. Her eyes will never be the same again. Her heart will miss a beat every time she thinks of her lost one. The warmth of an old jacket, the smell of new school supplies, the lyrics of a song, the taste of a favorite meal—all speak the same name to her.
Running your fingers through your baby's hair one last time, caressing small feet, holding the muscular shoulders or the feminine body, limp and cold, against the body that gave that body birth—what could pull a soul more deeply into despair?
"A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more."
What can we learn from this? What can we take away? Perhaps it only calls us to sit in the dust and cover our heads with ashes, dwelling in silence on the vapor of life. Perhaps we should be galvanized into action, doing our utmost to heal the wounded and give hope to the hopeless. Perhaps we should clutch close the small ones around us and pour whispers of love and gratitude into their perfect ears. Perhaps we, the spectators, are meant to recognize that one day we will be the bereaved.
I am moved, but moved to what I do not know. All I fathom is that life is precious, no life more precious than another. All death brings its own measure of sorrow. Whether a child has lived forty years or only four days, she has a mother, and if the mother does not care for her, she has a Father in Heaven who weeps at what a world of sin has done to her.
Life must not be all one gasping fear, fear of loss and loneliness and inevitable separation. It will come whether we anticipate it or not, and it will be none the easier for our worry. Neither should we overindulge those we love so that their days are emptier for it. There is a balance, as in all things: live your life between the extremes of fear and failure, somewhere in the land of gratitude and mindfulness.
You may weep for your children, but remember to love them first.