Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Eli, Eli

Not an Orphan Opening, exactly.

Out of the depths I call to you, Lord.
When the prayer chain began to light up -- baby drowned, heart stopped for almost half an hour -- Kaye sprung into action. Within moments she had alerted the support group, found a contact email for the mother, written a blog post, and created a hashtag: #prayingforbabysam. The first familiar pangs of panic and grief subsided beneath the flurry of making a difference. As long as she was doing something to make things better, she could look at the pictures of little Sam in his hospital bed and keep breathing.
Like water my life drains away.
The support group buzzed with prayers and sage counsel, wisdom dearly bought. Each person knew the pain the parents were feeling, knew it in their bones, had buried it in tiny plots in small hometowns or manicured city memorial parks. Kaye had brought them together. She monitored the prayer line, moderated the comments, posted the memes, wrote the columns about What Not To Say to a Grieving Parent or Five Ways to Support Your Bereaved Friend. Within private forums, she gave the good advice about allowing yourself to mourn, about celebrating the anniversary, about visiting the grave, about seeking help when the waves of agony pulled you underneath as you tried in vain to reach your baby.
Save me God,
For the waters have reached my neck,
I have sunk into the mire of the deep,
where there is no foothold.
I have gone down to the watery depths;
the flood overwhelms me.
Kaye understood.
Deep calls to deep in the roar of your torrents,
And all your waves and breakers sweep over me.
She had lived each step of the process. She knew everything that Sam's mother was going through. She knew the shock of discovery, the horror, the deadly hope, the helpless vigils over the small still body covered with tubes, the beeps and then the silence of the monitors. She knew the stresses that could tear a marriage and a family apart. And she knew how to rebuild, to channel her grief into something good and productive: a support network for parents like her, so that no one should have to go through the worst moments of their life alone. Eli's Miracle was named for her own son, the miracle being that life could go on after death. She couldn't save Eli, but in his name she did everything possible to save other parents. Time brought wisdom and solace. God's will was inscrutable, but now that Kaye was on the other side she could see how far she'd come. She was a #survivor.
He reached down from on high and seized me;
drew me out of the deep waters.
And now baby Sam's mother needed her. Kaye kept vigil with her, constantly monitoring for updates. In the middle of the night she checked her phone for fresh news to share with the support group. Sam's anguished mother was keeping in constant touch. Kaye knew too well not just her present sorrow, but the horrors of the coming days as the family would have to make decisions about removing life support. Nothing, nothing could prepare them for that awful moment, but Kaye would walk with them every step of the way, praying when they prayed, crying when they cried. And when they needed it, the GoFundMe account was there as well to cover the hospital bills. Kaye did not talk yet about the funeral expenses. The family was still choking on hope. It was wise to let them take the time they needed. After all, everyone was #prayingforbabysam, praying for that miracle.
I shall not die but live
and declare the deeds of the Lord.
Talitha koum, and Sam's eyes opened. He spoke. He ate. His brain activity was off the charts on the high side. "I'm not a religious man," Sam's doctor proclaimed, "but the only word for this is 'miraculous'." The hashtaggers, the memers, the prayer warriors on the other side of the screen watched the miracle unfold and proclaimed it #blessed.  His mother posted photo after teary photo of the child as each day some new wonder unfolded, and day after day Kaye shared them with all who were #prayingforbabySam.

But Kaye was not praying.
Then the waters would have engulfed us,
the torrent overwhelmed us,
the seething water would have drowned us.
She had sought for so little. Nothing unreasonable or extraordinary. The basic, common, decent process of healing for the shattered parents and sobbing siblings was all she requested of God. And God betrayed her, and betrayed Eli, by sending some other family a literal fucking obscene miracle. The years she'd spent in coming to terms and reaching peace and transmuting her suffering into ministry were a timeline of mockery. Everyone's suffering had been wasted. Baby Sam stirred in his bed, and walked, and talked, and said, "Mama", but her baby, her own sweet Eli for whom she prayed, was only in goddamn heaven.
Cast them into the watery pit never more to rise.
On the day that everyone posted the pictures of Sam toddling out of the hospital, Kaye went to Eli's grave. She smashed a vase of flowers against the small flat stone. She lay her body over the patch of earth that covered her son and begged God to give her baby back to her. No answer came but the prick and sting of shattered glass. As the blood trickled down her forehead, she lifted up her voice and cried, "My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?"


Finicky Cat said...

This is haunting. It's not an Orphan Opening at all, but a very good Micro Fiction.

mrsdarwin said...

Thanks, FC. It's something that's been rattling around in my head for a while, but every time I thought I'd write it up, some new tragedy would occur and I'd put it off so that it didn't look like I was being pointed. But tragedies never stop happening, so it seemed best to finally write the story and get it out of my head.