Today is her birthday

“Where does your string go? All the way to heaven, where Celeste is!”

– Miriam, age 7

photo of pink snap dragon flowers

Letting myself dwell on her, I allow my mind to slowly drift into the fog where I can process little beyond the absence of a girl I carried inside me, loved, fought for in prayer and abandoned to the loving arms of the father as a stranger lowered her tiny redwood casket into the ground.

She is my little girl. I miss her. I wish she was here.

It took me a long time to admit those words. On one hand, I never developed any dreams of raising her. Learning I was pregnant, I was scared to possess her while managing my son’s complex medical needs. Before I had a chance to make plans, we learned we would lose her. My pregnancy was spent in grief.

For eight months, I saw her photo on the shelf in my room and thought only of the girl I lost, the girl who died. My heart drew a shell around its tender surface as I worked to edit the painful words in a memoir I hope to publish.

Then came Ash Wednesday. On Ash Wednesday, after a week in a strange mist, I went to the cemetery and said the words, “I miss you. I wish you were here.”

photo of cross on a infant coffin

When I admit to myself this sadness, I feel the completeness of her person. 
She is whole.
She is real.
She is not part of a crushed dream, a nightmare of prenatal diagnoses and hospitalizations.
Celeste is a person. She is my daughter.

And today is her birthday.

close up of parents' fingers holding their daughters hand, wrapped in a baby blanket

The Women of Jerusalem walked with Jesus along the way of the cross. Beyond meeting him once, they did not interfere. They could not help. They simply accompanied him on his way.

Richard John Neuhaus wrote,

“At the cross her station keeping. There was nothing else to be done, except to be there. The presence of our helplessness is our gift to the helpless…it takes the listener into the heart of darkness, and there, at the heart of darkness, is hope, because there is Christ…”

Death on a Friday Afternoon

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