the jerk, the breeze, and the cherub

I don’t look at those NICU-era posts often. But when I do, he/she/it tends to pop up a lot—for lack of a better word, god. That entity that some of us feel is a senselessly abandoning prick. Or delusion incarnate. Or the wind and the waves. Or Gandalf the White sitting on a cottonball throne, the bible in one hand and a slate of the ten commandments in the other, hurricanes and AIDS and salvation shooting out from the tips of his fingers just beyond the pearly gates of so many punchlines.

Souls travel in packs, I like to think. They drift in and out of lives, drawn magnetically to one another across dimensions and by what we think of as turns of fate. By that reckoning, my son knew I was there and loving him, and was not afraid even though his physical body was so desperately compromised.

By that reckoning, he was all that he was supposed to be.

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Driving in the car the other day Evan piped up from the backseat, “A long time ago mommy, you and me were married in a white church.”

“Really?” I smiled.

“Yes,” he said definitively. “We lived in a little house. We were married, a long time ago. You were my wife.”

The part of me closest to the surface thinks Awww, silly kids but underneath that, I know he’s probably right. When you’re that young, the door to that knowing is still see-through, the knowing that age eventually hides behind slowly setting concrete.

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Can I thank god for my secular family and social circle? Nobody once suggested that Liam's death was god’s plan, but I've heard of that consolation being offered to plenty of others. Your baby is not with you because he is in heaven, in a better place. God needed him more than you did.

Oooooh, the electricity of our most instinctual reaction. To any god who would choose another kid over mine? Stick it. The best place my baby can be is with me. I can't imagine what I'd do if someone said that to me. I'd throw whatever was closest. A toaster. A wet fish. A sabre-toothed anything.

Semantics are the boundaries on a map that divide the land masses of humanity. By the measures of shared interest and cooperation and community, semantics shouldn’t matter as much as they do. We all yearn for proof of some greater force, some meaning to life beyond death and taxes. Not necessarily a white-bearded, prayer-answering/denying force that has us all by puppet strings, but a witness that just stands with us.

You might subscribe to ghosts or Jesus or angels or spirits or souls or God or guardians or energy or chakra or gospel or chi or serendipity or reincarnation or karma or molecules but really, what does it matter? We all love, fiercely.

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I was sitting here the other night and looked to see it was August 6 and it struck me that I’d forgotten entirely: Ben is now one year old 'adjusted', as they say. One year old plus the three missing months of his prematurity. One year old according to his due date. In that heartbeat I was transported to the parallel universe of double-strollers and I conjured a vision of the birthday party that might have been. But that vision felt forced. Every voice replied He never meant to stay.