I try to remember, every day, to take a couple of minutes and check out some of my favorite pages on Facebook. I’m a scroller. I’ll quickly slide through my friends’ posts and skim to make sure that the worlds of my friends and family are good, that their lives are peaceful. And then, I’ll check out Arkell and Dana’s Baby Buns (or something like that) and Berkley Breathed’s Bloom County 2015.
Over the summer, I saw a video on Facebook, one of those trending posts, about a family in which a man was told that his wife was expecting. For years, they had been trying to have a child and suffered miscarriage after miscarriage. And then, they just stopped trying. They made their peace with their reality and went about their lives. And then the woman noticed that despite her best efforts, she was gaining weight so she went to her doctor. And learned that she was pregnant. And she took a video of her husband pulling buns out of the oven while looking at the ultrasound pictures of their baby.
When the mother-t0-be was about twenty-three weeks along, she delivered a baby boy, Kaleb. And every day, I check out this family to see how they are doing, and every day I say several prayers for this tiny family.
Pat and I had no problem conceiving. The Boy gave me a bit of a troublesome pregnancy. The Girl was easy. And then, with the magical number of two children being accomplished, I promptly understood that I was done. I needed no more children; the biological clock was smashed into the wall. And every time my mother asked me when the third baby was going to be born, I told her I would give birth right around the time that she did. Note, I have not had a third child and I will not be giving birth to any third child anytime soon. I am officially closed for business.
I can not imagine the grief, pain, and anxiety that must accompany this family’s existence as they went from being expecting to watching their tiny baby grow up in an incubator and not in the beautiful swell of the mother’s tummy. I can not imagine the anguish that must live within this family when their son lives on wires and tubes and must look like some form of marionette puppet.
But the baby is still alive and, today, had his breathing tube removed. He is breathing on his own. Hallelujah. God be praised, this beautiful little man is still clinging to life and seems to be growing stronger. What a God-send. What a blessing.
So after rejoicing in the news about the baby, I then switched to Bloom County 2015 to see the strip about the citizens of Bloom County preparing for Christmas. Whether it is Opus calling the 1800-Dial-A-Mom number for the annual check-in to Opus sitting on the roof with Bill-the-Cat, wrapped up in Christmas lights, to Binkley curled up with his crush on the side of a hill. But the last frame gave me pause.
Steve Dallas, a crude, cold man, standing in the doorway of a hospital room. A little boy with an x-wing helmet, curled up asleep, an iv drip bag suspended over his head. Steve is holding a gift and the walls are illuminated with colorful sensors, the closest thing to a Christmas tree this child would have this year.
I have it so easy. And I know I have it so easy. As I am typing this, my mom is cleaning and putting away the dishes (she won’t let me help her no matter how many times I ask). My father is playing card games with my kids. My husband is safe at home.
All is well in my world.
This morning, Mom and I walked down to the beach and watched the ocean roll across the sand. I strolled along the edge, picking up small conch shells and curiously examining the animals that were still living within. I noticed that each conch-crab had its eye peering over the edge of the shell, and I stared at the tiny point of darkness surrounded by white and wondered at the thoughts and cognitive processes happening deep within the shell.
Maybe there was nothing. Maybe I was just holding an instinctive invertebrate that had no thought, no registrable brain activity other than something that would be a purely instinctive reaction to what is happening in its environment.
But as I put the animal back into the water, watched as the waves lightly tossed it back and forth, I couldn’t help but consider the state of the animal’s existence, wonder about my role in its life….or the lack of my role in its life. I had interrupted its life for those brief moments, held it hostage between my fingers, and stared probingly at it.
And then, a pelican flew past, much like one had flown over my head yesterday morning when I was having a communion moment with God and a dolphin. And I admired how the pelican would flap its wings five or six times, gain a small amount of height before gliding, its body slowly dipping closer and closer to the water until, finally, the very tips of its flight feathers would skim just under the edge of the water, as though the pelican were peeling back the top most layers of the world.
And as I watched the pelican, as I laid the conch back in the water, as I stood and watched the ocean waves unfurl along the ribbony edges of the beach, I just….lived and felt very much my existence and the vitality that is within me.
Recently, when Dad and I have been fishing, he’ll put some bait fish (greenbacks) in a Ziplock bag full of water for me to use. So I can find them quickly, I keep the bag tucked under my leg when I’m in the canoe, and I am constantly aware of the frenetic activity of these tiny fish beating their tales in a fruitless attempt to escape and return to the ocean.
In some respects, I feel guilty because I will eventually be their executioner when I string them onto the hook and send them down to the ocean floor and tempt a sugar trout onto my hook.
In other respects, I quietly contemplate the sense of this living heart beat under my leg, this moment of pure and absolute life that is very primal and very much existential.
And so, as I sit here on a pull out sofa-bed, listening to Mom sorting through the cutlery while I think about a baby in the NICU or a cartoon/comic child curled around his x-wing helmet, I am so very aware of how blessed I am.
Tomorrow is Christmas. Tomorrow is a day that is synonymous with hope, for me, and tomorrow I will once more hold the feeling of hope within my cupped hands. I will look at my beautiful children and see the lines of my hope in the arches of their cheeks, in the brilliance of their eyes. I will see hope as my father passes my mother her gift. I will see hope when I my brother and his family arrive, hopefully wearing silly Santa hats, and we will sit around the tree and be a family.
Merry Christmas dear friends. May you have great hope, joy, love, and compassion today, tomorrow, and all the days after.
Love you. Mean it.