"I heard a voice from heaven saying, 'Son, let this woman be a bride to you in the restoration of my people. Let her be a mother for these people, regenerating souls through the salvation of spirit and water.'" (Hildegard of Bingen, Scivias)

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Ave Verum Corpus

By Nick's godmother and the eulogist at Rachel's funeral, from the memory book my grad school best friend put together for her first birthday after our car accident when she was a radiant nursing toddler.

Feb. 22, 1994

Rachel,

The day you were born I was having a chemotherapy treatment. I was lying on my back with I.V. lines and needles twisted into my arms. I knew in the secret place of my heart where friends talk without words that your mommy was lying in a bed having you. I imagined her struggle breathing and pushing through a long labor and I said prayers for her as I lay there in my bed.

Your mommy and I had talked about being afraid of pain and I knew as I felt the hurt in my own body and cried--that day she was hurting in her body too. So it was a body prayer really I ushered pushing you gently through your mother's tunnels in my mind. Come on little one, you can do it; Oh dear Laura, may you feel your strength and courage--your body sturdy as a building, holy as a place of prayer. Hold tight mothership, you are about to launch a precious life raft out to sea. It was all about survival for you and her. But you were meant to be given to us.

When you lay sleepy as a turtle in the sun inside your momma's shell, we felt your wings sprout. You were a talisman of survival for all of us really. The Gulf was on fire, boiling oil exploding smoke that kept our violent hearts in darkness all winter. We feared a nuclear nightmare might unleash and hold the whole planet hostage.

My own flesh was a battleground, abnormal cells had raged out of control threatening my life and we prayed. Before my surgery we gathered and prayed and sang. Your mommie sat in a cotton shift with her guitar across the room in her belly where you lived. She had long wavy hair that was curled tight on the ends from the August humidity. She had long slender fingers that pulled music from the guitar strings. Your daddy sat there too in his sweet silence. He is like a cat, watchful, quiet, knowing inside.

We were sad because we all were thinking about death. My death--our death--all the times that we are reminded of impermanence. We were remembering people we've said goodbye to that we loved and people we would miss if we left. We were thinking about our fear of pain body pain physical suffering and emotional pain the deep wounding that only the loss of another human being can cause. We were thinking about the grain of wheat that dies so that the bread of eucharist can be shared and we were hopelessly lost in the mystery of pain and the paradox of love. So we invoked the Christ who himself is a koan but the only answer we know.

But you stirred when you felt your mommie's beautiful voice vibrate as you clung to her ribs. And like we were told in the story of Elizabeth and Mary, something magical happens when a child stirs like that in her mother's womb.

The room became full of light from your limbs and as you tongue clucked you called forth your guardian angels. We are told to stay close to the guardians of children for their faces see the glory of God up close--more clearly than any other angel.

After we prayed we came to rub your mommie's tummy...to touch you snug and safe in that little houseboat. You radiated light and life and we did not want to forget from where we came and to where we are returning.

On the day you were baptized you loved the water, like a fish lost in the naturalness of the waves Who is this coming up from the desert, shining white? (Canticle of Canticles 8:5). The angels were lost in admiration.

At your party I got to hold you a long time. You were so tired from all of your friends' congratulations, you fell asleep in my arms while we were on a walk. Mommy was afraid someone had run off with you because she didn't know where we were. But I wanted to take you to a place apart and tell you that sometimes we must be alone and still and quiet. I know you noticed the hyacinths and took them deep into your lungs. I hope you never forgot that smell.

I am grateful you only knew trust. And that you allowed so many people who begged to hold you to touch your spirit. You left behind a legacy of nuzzles burned into the hearts of all your friends!

We still do not understand your leaving us. Such an illumination more beautiful than the moon...but as quick as a heartbeat and you are plucked from this earth.

Our feeble voices have not recovered. Never will. Fingers, whispers in the night sometimes forget you are gone. We do not learn well or easy the messages of death. But you have planted something on this earth that is patient. That is free. It pulls us out of our shame and our cynicism. We forget, but when we go away to listen, we see a little girl rising in us with unbroken promises on the shoulders of a shepherd (for you are a little lamb)

and we lie down at night
safe
and remember
our memories have filled this book
as love filled our hearts
with sweet sighs
and little hands that we can trust.

Your friend forever,
Jacquee Dickey

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