It's strange how a heart can hold so many things. I read somewhere that you can only feel one emotion at a time, but I don't believe it for a minute. Today as I sat on a fallen log watching my children scramble over slippery stones and wade in cool water, my heart was filled with both joy and sorrow. What joy to hear their happy chatter and cries of delight as they played beneath a tumbling waterfall! And at the same time, my thoughts turned to things that might have been.
On this day five years ago I lay helplessly on a hard bed in the Emergency Room of our local hospital. I'd known for nine days that the baby I'd been carrying was no longer alive, and I'd waited through each with a mixture of grief and anger and peace and the tiniest bit of hope that maybe, just maybe, there really was life still hidden away within me. I'd waited for my body to give up that little one; I'd hoped and prayed for a peaceful passing. Instead I, hemorrhaged in the night, losing a frightening amount of blood and ending up in the Emergency Room. The next weeks dragged by as I slowly regained strength and learned to live with the loss of our precious baby.
I sat in the forest today, holding my sweet little Pearl, watching Peregrine wading and Raphael balancing on fallen logs. I spotted bright thimbleberries growing in shady places and called Poppy over to introduce her to their melt-in-your-mouth sweetness. We decided they're the food of faeries, and I think she liked them as much as I do. The kids spotted a crawdad; they all crowded around to watch it. Erik stood far off and took pictures of them playing, of the trees, of the water cascading over the rocks. He came close and played with them, helped Raphael over the slippery places, cheered Peregrine on in his quest to touch the waterfall. Peregrine decided it's the place where he'll ask "the girl" when he decides to get married. (Only he won't plunge into the water on that day. He's got it all planned.)
I let my heart wander with my thoughts, thinking of a little one I never got to know, never held outside my womb. She would be 4 1/2 now. I wondered if she'd look like Poppy or like Pearl, or totally different. I really don't even know if she was a girl, but in our minds she is. We gave her a name. Of course we gave her a name; she is our Esther Bihana Hope. Peregrine, our perceptive boy, knew I was pregnant before I did, and he told me her name was Esther. Bihana is the Nepali word for morning. (I think of a long ago morning, an empty tomb. The Morning of mornings.) Hope is both my mom's middle name as well as what we hold on to. And when there is no strength to hold onto hope, Hope holds onto us.
The familiar words of the Nicene Creed echo in my heart. I await the resurrection of the dead and the life of the age to come. I know someday we will be together. Our Esther is not dead; she is truly alive. She is where there is no sorrow or pain, a place where someday, God will wipe every tear from my eyes. But for today, my joy is mingled with sorrow when I look at the four children who are here with me, and think of the two I do not yet know. (We lost another baby to miscarriage several months after Esther.) Today, I remember these babies and my heart is full, but there is room for both sorrow and joy.