I used to resent it when I was younger. This way life has of carrying on in spite of things. I took it then as a sign of how little anyone else cared about my suffering, all the teenage weight of angst that I bore, and I hated it. I just wanted the world to stop and let me have my break down. Now, I find myself grateful for the persistent way that life has of pulling me along with it, into the bright light of day.
The last time I saw my great grandmother alive, about a year before she passed away, she told me, “Oh, I’m so tired these days dear. This morning I didn’t think I would get up. But then they brought me my breakfast, and it smelled good, so I sat up and ate it. And then they helped me go to the bathroom so I figured I might as well get dressed. And then you came to see me, so it’s good that I got up today.” We joked that living was such a habit for her that she couldn’t figure out how to die. I think I’m starting to get what a blessing it is, these inescapable details of being present here, in bodies that require attention, in relationships with people who require our attention. The practical upshot of these bodies of clay is that we are forced to attend to life, even when we would rather not.
There is a toddler who needs a bottom wiped, a 5 year old copying words she can’t read out of a book so I can read them back to her. A seven year old who needs comforting. There are bunk beds to paint and rooms to rearrange, and all this continues in spite of and through sorrow and joy.
We buried Shiloh yesterday afternoon. Our family, and the GH’s, took a moment from our labors in painting, building, cooking and gathered at the front of the house, in the quiet spot near the porch swing that my MIL had newly prepared. The tiny bit of flesh that once housed Shiloh was wrapped in linen and tucked away in a cedar box crafted by a loving father who waits to someday join his child. The GH wept for the first time since this began as he pressed handfuls of earth back into the hole. We cried and embraced, and grieved for what might have been, as we planted flowers in the dirt above and placed a paving stone bearing Shiloh’s name to mark the place.
Then it was back to work, a meal, dinner clean up, finish the painting, and bedtime. These simple tasks an insistent reminder that life will go on, and there are gifts everywhere. A hummingbird floating in front of the kitchen window for several minutes, evening breezes, siblings gathered round table together, warm sunshine, cool earth, savory food. There can be such pleasure in living.
Last night just before going home I snuck out the front door again. (No one uses the front door at my in laws house, only the side doors.) There around the paving stone were smaller stones and flowers, arranged by the Girl when no one was looking. I realized that even this, the need to make a space for Shiloh’s remains, is a blessing, for all of us.