Tuesday, November 24, 2009

No Shortcuts

“Your bid--for God or no God, for a good God or the Cosmic Sadist, for eternal life or nonentity--will not be serious if nothing much is staked on it. And you will never discover how serious it was until the stakes are raised horribly high.”

--C.S. Lewis

There is no way around pain and grief except straight through them. All the shortcuts or back roads you could hope to take to avoid the dark, fogginess lead back this way eventually.

It has been a while since I have cried for the loss of our baby. The tears have turned stagnant, maybe dried up into permanent salt flats. It is always easier to desensitize yourself, to take some sort of emotional Novocain—or maybe something even stronger. But even then, as in child birth, the baby will not come out without a little effort on your part. It turns out that the effort you exert, and the time it takes to exert it under anesthesia may actually be double what it is without. Unfortunately the emotional, spiritual numbness doesn’t wear off like the effects of a pain-killing drug do. It is more of a state, a frame of mind and of the will. It’s one thing to steel your nerves and say “I’m not gonna let this bother me”, it is a wholly different thing to dejectedly lie down and lazily wait for the next bus when you have just missed the last one back home. You have to study the routes and sprint with all your might to where it might be, or take the road back on foot.

Our grief is different than those I read about in books, such as the one from which my introductory quote is lifted. As is the case with most miscarriages, there is no picture (save for an ultrasound), no laughter or cry, no smile, no fond, peaceful memory, just a dark, vacuous hole, a deep, unending well into which we let our imaginations run wild and solemnly utter a prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, remember our child in Your kingdom always.” Somehow, in doing that, my memory is jogged. I remember first finding out about the pregnancy. It was a joyful pronouncement, a sort of “Christ is risen”. Imagine if the disciples, or anyone of us who hope for the resurrection were to find out that He is not. We would feel deceived. And so I feel at times about this child. Were you a child, or were you, as one of the most insensitive, idiotic lab technicians put it, “just a late menstrual period”? God forgive me for wanting to slap that woman right now. Part of me, however, wants to believe what she said, or at least to feel as if losing our baby had such easy, scientific, biological explanations, could be forgotten about with a simple snap of the fingers and the wink of an eye.

“The amputee victim has got to learn to walk eventually”, I said to my wife last night. It may have been insensitive. Almost two months since the day we found out, we want life to start over. We are ready to stop wallowing, to start rejoicing and enjoying life again. There would be no use mourning if life were not at times the most vibrant, aromatic bouquet to be savored and “drunk in” as Anne of Green Gables used to say. We want to plant a tree, or some sort of perennial reminder of Seraphim’s life, to set up a memorial and, with a smile through tears, to never forget.

“All is vanity, a striving after the wind.” (Ecclesiastes) The word hevel in the Hebrew is usually translated vanity, but the way it is used here, I think it is best translated, in my own words, as a breath, something uncontainable, that cannot be analyzed and put under a microscope. “A striving after the wind”. Even Solomon in all his wisdom could only scarcely begin to unpack the mystery. The word “vanity” in our language has come to mean something that is pointless, hopeless, or maybe self-absorbed and narcissistic. The quest for the meaning of life is none of those things. It’s a painful, gut-wrenching, mind-blowing journey, but it is not in vain and I don’t think Solomon, even as he looked at life “under the sun” ever thought that. If those who have prayed for wisdom and obtained it are still stumped by the evasiveness of life and death, how much more we who are deadened by worldly pursuits and passions? And, Oh God, here’s a prayer that as we attempt to unpack this mystery, we may find You, in all your danger and pain-causing, but also in all Your healing and restoring. We have been driven to our knees in prayer and repentance through this trauma. “Let Your mercy, oh Lord, be upon us as we have set our hope in You.” (Psalms) Teach us to be simple, to have faith like little children, and to grieve with hope. And may the memory of Seraphim Heider be eternal. Amen.


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