Why Aren’t I Celebrating?
“How insignificant earth seems to me when I consider heaven.” (St. Ignatius of Loyola)
Yesterday was All Saint’s Day.
All Saints Day has always been one of my favorite feast days out of the entire Church year. That was, until this year. With my baby girl becoming an integral part of the celebration and joining all of the faithful departed who have made it to their true home, it was hard to feel joyful. That’s because I am a selfish person.
With her premature death within me, I struggled so much with the fact that she would not be baptized. I love the sacraments. They keep me grounded and going and thriving. I wanted her to receive them. Instead, she received a blessing in the hospital room. Her cold forehead was anointed as I stared at her lifeless body in disbelief. Was this really happening? She was washed with the waters of my womb, but she would never be washed with the waters of life.
At her funeral, our pastor spoke of her Baptism by Desire—her longing for heaven. It didn’t comfort me, although I’m sure it comforted the countless others in the church, who were grappling with the questions none of them wanted to voice aloud. But what about my desire? What about my longing? What about my needs, my hope, my plans, and the future I envisioned?
I knew then, and I know now, my little girl’s soul is with her Maker, while what remains of her body presides down the street, and I remain on this side of heaven suffering and longing until I hopefully make it there, too. Isn’t heaven also my deepest desire? That intense hunger and longing for something so beyond me that will never be quenched or satisfied. Right now, though, I feel like I will forever rot in this valley.
But, my little girl is a saint. So why was the sting of yesterday so painful?
It broke me, because my flesh wants her here. My arms still long to hold her body. My womb was robbed of her, and it has felt the emptiness of her absence ever since. My mind cannot comprehend this tremendous loss. My ears do not hear her cries, babbles, laughter; the sound of her heart beating or the release of a sweet sigh as she lay peacefully asleep. Nor does my voice quiet her siblings to prevent them from waking her up. My fingers do not feel the clutch of her small hands around them. My lips do not kiss her smooth, delicate skin. My eyes do not look into hers, or witness the love my husband and other children longed to show her, and they do not watch her grow. My nose does not breathe in the fragrance of her hair, skin, and breath. My body does not radiate from her warmth, as I press her close in to me to nourish her in her hunger. My hands do not caress her dark, wavy hair, bathe and dress her small frame, change her diapers, or swaddle her tightly. My feet do not arise from the bed in the middle of the night to go to her, greet her, and give her everything I thought I would. My arms do not lift her from her crib or cradle her to sleep. My heart is half gone, and there is an aching within the pit of my stomach. I have lost so much, and my loss is her gain; but yet, I want her here.
At Mass, as Jesus in the most Blessed Sacrament was placed on my tongue, my eyes were closed, and I felt the hot tears quickly welling up. I felt Him. I felt her. I felt heaven. And I remembered. I remembered how heaven was in the room on that delivery day and night. I remembered that other worldly experience as the veil was lifted, and I felt heaven come down to earth to meet our broken bodies in that dark, despairing room. The encounter is completely indescribable. Words will never do it justice. But the emotions and the rawness of experiencing the unknown are so vivid for me. And as painful as those moments were, I often want so badly to be back in that hospital room, because I know, ultimately, I want heaven.
But I am here. And she is there. So I don’t really feel like celebrating right now. But I do hope a joy replaces the emptiness. And I hope the hunger is one day satisfied. And I hope to cradle her in my arms again, and celebrate with her, in our true home...heaven.