the gossamer veil
I remember standing in the window of our new bedroom, staring out across lush green trees to glimpse the sparkling lake across the street. The clouds were cream and billowy in the sweet blue sky, and I caught my breath to think I could wake up to such loveliness every morning.
And then I remembered.
That a friend was going into labor that same morning to deliver a baby who would not live through the day.
I pressed my forehead against the glass and tried to hold together the tension of a world where such a perfect clear morning would welcome such pain. It has been ever thus, that life and death dance hand in hand, but we do our best to ignore it, lest our brains explode at the overload of our own mortality.
We do not want to lift the veil.
. . .
One week I’m stocking up on Saltines and Gatorade for the nausea already rising in my belly.
The next week I trudge slowly up the Walgreens aisle, hospital bracelet still circled round my wrist, and set the unwanted supplies silently on the counter. The cheerful clerk rings up the transaction without seeing the robotic stare in my eyes.
“Have a wonderful night!” she wishes me on my way. A bitter laugh catches in my throat as I move towards the door that automatically slides open in front of me.
It has been one of the worst days of my life.
I join him at the restaurant counter, still waiting for our take-out twenty minutes later, standing with my same empty zombie stance, what to do with these helpless limbs that cannot save what hurts us most. Any other evening such a long wait would have annoyed us, rolled eyes and whispered sarcasm. But tonight we barely know to care.
I look around at the strangers ordering their pasta, zipping paper off their straws, texting while they wait for friends to park the car – and I envy them their normalcy, their ordinary day, how they can stand on two feet without feeling like they need a wall to hold them up and how nothing – no one – has died inside them today. I long with every cell in my body to flip the calendar forward or back to a time when I could cruise through suburban shopping centers wondering where we should eat dinner and not wondering how the world dares to continue while death stands so close, breathing down our necks though we barely notice.
. . .
What do you write when the words run out? Or rather, when the words you never wanted to share were the same ones that brought warm meals and sweet flowers to your doorstep, that filled your phone and flooded your inbox, that spilled forth long-distance love and shared stories you never knew, that sparked so much sympathy from strangers-turned-friends?
Maybe you trust your own words, dig through the thousands you spill each day to find the ones that really matter – I wonder how we go on. But I know that we go on. And you remember to trust the truer words, the scripture and the poetry and the promises that we place upon our hearts so that, as the rabbi’s story goes, when our hearts finally break open the words fall inside.
And you look out the same window where you prayed that friend through her worst day and you spy your babies running barefoot through the lush grass below and you catch the lump in your throat wondering whether you want too much by wanting more, wishing everything could have been complete with only two but knowing that your soul keeps singing a stubborn soft psalm for something more.
And you go about your day – the Target and the Walgreens and the email and the laundry – and every time you remember the emptiness inside, you wish you could leap up and tug back down that gossamer veil, grab it with both hands and nail it to the floor so that illusion and innocence could float easy around you once again.
But you know once the veil has lifted nothing can ever be the same. You understand why revelation and apocalypse draw from this same dread, this shimmering veil that draws back to show how close death dances to our living, the thin separation that never falls the same once parted.
No matter how much you want to yank yesterday back into your hands.
. . .
There will come a day when I don’t think about it immediately upon waking, while I blink to reorient myself with the dawn. When the words I should be pregnant or we lost a baby don’t stream through my head while I wash breakfast dishes. There will be school runs and work meetings and yard work and weekend projects, and the world will settle back into the boring where we can function unthinking.
The morning after that day, the unthinking day, I will feel both sad and grateful. Weepy that the grieving is moving on and thankful that things are becoming everyday again. I will hug the boys tighter and they will squirm away with smiles and we will keep plodding on with the holy ordinary of living.
But somewhere the veil will be lifting for someone I love. It has been ever thus, that life and death dance hand in hand. And maybe the only true and faithful way to go on is to go through – not to deny one ounce of emotion but to promise to feel it all, to honor how this has changed me, will continue to change me, will never be a smoothed healing but a small scarring that shapes who I am and what I become.
Maybe this is how the veil becomes not a heavy shroud but a soft scarf, a warm protection against the bite of wind, a swath of beauty in a world too ugly, a burst of color in a bland of grey.
Maybe this is how we carry loss with us. Close to the skin, and brave enough for others to see.
This is so beautiful and eloquently said. Things I’ve been thinking and feeling, but unable to put into words. I’m two months out from my D & C for baby 3. I never knew this journey was so hard. Thank you for sharing.
Oh, Lynn, it is so hard and heart-breaking. One of the hardest losses we ever have to bear. I will keep you and your family in my prayers. Thank you for sharing your story here.
I’ve been an admirer of your writing for a long time (first discovered you on Power of Moms–I’m an editor there), and I recently shared this post with my sister who had a miscarriage. It touched her deeply, and it got me thinking that this should be shared with our Power of Moms community. Would you mind if we republished it there? We could republish in full, with you as the author of course (like the other articles you’ve published with us); or we could publish an excerpt as a “Power of Moms Pick” and direct our readers to your blog to read the rest. If you are interested in either option, please email me at email@example.com.
Rachel, thank you so much for your kind words. I am deeply touched. Yes, I will be in touch – I love Power of Moms’ work and would be happy to contribute again.
Your Power of Moms Pick is up! Thanks for allowing us to share!
Dear Laura, your words are precious peeks into the soul of one who has experienced deep loss. They take me back, remind me of what it felt like for love to slip through – that quick exit to heaven as one father who remembered what it felt like for him many years earlier told me. I remember clinging to the visual of my two born children and thinking, “I did this. I really did.” I needed that reminder that I could bring life into the world, that I had. In time, I would bring three more babies to this earth. No one can tell me each life isn’t infinitely precious. The ones that make it, the ones that don’t, all are. Hugs to you…
Roxane, your words touch me just as deeply. “For love to slip through” – oh amen. I find myself in your description of clinging to your two kids, of wanting proof of them, of trying to remember all the good that my body, which now feels broken, has brought into the world. It is hard to have our image of our family remade, but your story gives me hope. Every life is precious, even the fleeting sparks, and I pray there will be more. Thank you so much for stopping here.
Laura, as I’ve read your last few posts, words fail me. I wish I could offer something comforting or assure you that the journey you’re on right now gets easier fast. But (at least in my experiences of miscarrying) that’s not a guarantee. But I can offer you my prayers; and I can assure you that (at least in my experience) GOD is more patient than we are…so the Divine Love will be there for you, no matter where this journey of intense grief takes you and even when your heartache and anger don’t have you feeling like being fully there to embrace it. < Peace, prayers, and sisterhood in the ugliest piece of motherhood
Kateri – your words do not fail me. They are beautiful and powerful and help hold me up. Thank you so much, for your reminder and assurance that God is good, all the time. And thank you for your prayers.
Hugs. More hugs.
In one of her books, Margaret Silf writes beautifully about how Lazarus’ story — and Christ’s story — is a promise that although the worst may happen, Christ promises to walk with us through that worst, and eventually, together we will transcend it. That came to mind when I read your words.
You’re in my prayers.
Thank you for your words and prayers, Ginny. They mean so much to me, even more because I know that you know this pain all too deeply.
I love the image of Lazarus here. Carrie Newcomer has a song called “Lazarus” that speaks the dark side of his story, too – what it was like to live after that rising and how it was harder than he ever thought to be the one Christ saved. And Margaret Silf pretty much blows my mind – thanks for the reminder to dig out her books, too.
It may sound platitudish, but it isn’t. Simple words are all I have, and they were wrought from a life with far less hope and glitter and poetry than a Hallmark card:
There are some things in life you do not “get over.” There are some things in life you can’t “get over,” the best you can hope for is to “get through.”
Were you local, I’d offer tea…and childcare (or a day out — I come equipped with Child/Infant CPR certification and museum and zoo memberships 😉 ).
Yes, Val – we get through but not over. Beautifully stated. Would that more Hallmark cards could speak this truth!
The longer I live the more I find that so much of life does not fit in a box that Hallmark covers. People don’t lije to think about dark, sad, ugly, awkward moments in life. There are some things “ADD MORE GLITTER!!!” just can’t touch.
I had 2 miscarriages about 20 years ago and sometimes I still wonder what my sons would look like now, what would they be studying, what would have been their future plans. You get over the pain but not the loss. Even though there’s so much life around me with my big family, I’m still aware that my kids have 2 brothers praying for us in Heaven and waiting to welcome us Home. Thanks for your lovely writing and for allowing us to share our miscarriage stories.
Your words touched me so deeply. Thank you for sharing them here. And what you wrote about giving others the chance to share their own stories of miscarriage – that took my breath away, because I never intended to do so and yet I am so moved that this has happened. Vulnerability is a terrifying prospect but it always, mysteriously, brings us closer together. In a strange way, your story gives me hope that I will never forget this part of my story – it affirms that this life will forever shape my own. Thank you.
I had a miscarriage this last April. I too keep thinking about the baby,-how far along I would be now. How I should be creeping closer to a miracle, but I’m not. It is hard. I feel like I have joined the worst club ever. Prayers to you sweet momma.
Thank you so much for your words, Anna, and for sharing your own story so beautifully and honestly. It is an awful club. But maybe we help hold each other up through these meetings. Prayers to you as well.
I had a moment like that at walgreens too. Buying things to manage the impending passage of the baby that should have been snuggled in my womb. Awful.
I think you’re absolutely right to say you must feel it all. To allow yourself to be scarred by this and to later look at yourself with the scar included. For me it is as if my heart crumpled like a piece of paper, and through healing was unfolded. My heart is still in one piece, but the lines from its crumpling will ever after be present. Still, such healing is productive; thus the scars are a reminder to me of my trust in Him who brought me through the veil.
My prayers are with you as you pass through. Sometimes going through the veil is very slow and it is always very painful. Let the Lord lead you through. I’m sending so much love and prayer.
KJL, your image of the crumpled paper is beautiful and true. I keep thinking about the line from Hafiz that God breaks the heart again and again until it stays open. I do not believe God “did this” to teach me some lesson – that would be a cruel God indeed – but I do think the way my heart keeps breaking open through the grieving is a widening that will bring grace.
Your words about the painful process of going through the veil ring true to me, too. It is hard to trust in the darkness but we lean into it every day. Thank you so much for your prayers.
Incredibly touching–speaks to my heart personally from having lost a child through miscarriage and now watching a family member grieve for the possible loss of her newborn, due to the need for a heart transplant. The words of this blog were so raw and genuine.
Thank you so much, Stephanie, for your words and your encouragement, and for sharing your own stories. You are in my thoughts.