This September 30th was the 5th anniversary of my daughter Josephine’s birth. And death. Stillborn. It’s a bittersweet day for me, as we mourn and remember and celebrate her, especially by planting fall bulbs which will fill our garden with colour in the spring. We try to fill her birthday, one haunted by painful memories, with as much love and beauty as we can. We feel the wordless warmth of her love in return, across the temporary divide into the next life. The prayers and kind messages of friends take the sharp edge off this poignant day.
Josephine’s birthday is also Orange Shirt day, the special day assigned to commemorate the suffering of First Nations children separated from their families and put in residential schools. Having lost a child myself, I feel a stab of sympathy when I think of these families who had their children torn away from them. They had the additional torture of anxiety for their children’s happiness and well-being, knowing these were being violated. So from the heart of a mother which has been broken by grief, I send all my deepest wishes for healing and hope to all who have suffered in this way.
I was touched by the slogan below when my sister sent me this poster:
Every child matters.
No qualifying statements: no ‘if/then clauses’ like if they’re wealthy, they matter; if they’re white, they matter; if they’re wanted, they matter, if they’re old enough, they matter. No.
EVERY CHILD MATTERS.
When I saw a petition for equal health care for Inuit babies, I was a bit naively shocked….what do you mean, some babies in Canada often don’t receive equal care?? It seems that in their more extreme climate, many Inuit babies suffer seriously from RSV (respiratory virus syndrome), and some even succumb to it, despite the existence of a preventative antibody that is normally given to at-risk babies. It is not standardly given to them. I’m at a loss to know why. Cost, perhaps? Since when have we put a price tag on human life? Moreover, why is that price tag different depending whose child you are? Every child matters.
To say that some babies matter more than others is to commodify human beings, that is, to turn them into objects of variable worth…mere things whose value is determined by other frail human beings. This makes no sense. Either all babies matter, or none do.
Canada is such a gift. A beautiful country which is filled with so many diverse peoples. Let us please work towards making it a place where it is truly clear that every child matters, no matter what.
They look like a bowl of dried bones,
cold and lifeless–
a tragic ode to time lost
and utterly incapable of change–
but look more closely!
Within their crinkled-shut hearts,
clenched in the knuckles of their bony hands,
are tiny gems
bursting with possibility!
When the sun’s warm gaze melts
the unfeeling snow
into lovely spring water,
blooms will unfurl
from these dusty bones.
After winter’s grimness,
we’ll see the world in colour again,
and the flowers will laugh
that we thought them dead.
I wish I knew how to grow
with the single-minded purpose of flowers.
Up, up and ever increasing in beauty,
focused on the source of light and
undistracted by the tangle and clutter
of weeds and other plants nearby.
Neither thorns nor thistles
causing them to pause in self-doubt,
or think their mission would be better
if they were holding up
the heavy golden head of some other stem–
richness enough to be oneself.
Flowers have no muscles
yet they move
open / close
smile at the sun
kiss the sky goodnight
How is it possible?
Have you ever thought about this?
Only through their emptiness
are they able to be filled
The water of life coursing through their veins
gives them strength
Help me remember this
when I am parched and drooping
but refuse to drink
Fill me with this aqua vitae
give my spirit life
make my body rise again
to gaze at the sun
I grow my garden
wild and free
I do not expect
it bow to me
My joy it is
to watch it bloom
Nor do I wish
its beauty to consume
to cut and cull
no longer in the wind and sun
to dance and curve
Not for me it is
to choose the day
nor the colour it shall bloom
So many shades of beauty
wild and free
Though I was the one
to plant the seeds
my garden does not belong to me
Spring is finally here.
The toddler and I are equally happy
digging in the garden
with dirt under our fingernails
and warm sunshine in our hair.
Out in the garden,
I can almost forget my messy house
–rooms cluttered with kids’ clothes and toys–
out here where dirt means not disorder,
but openness to growth
and getting messy is a necessary step
on the path to beauty.
Beautiful pink rose
with a sweet Heavenly scent–
as I cannot kiss your face
I’ll kiss it instead
We went to the Dosa Factory restaurant
with a very good old friend
and our seven kids.
They were very good:
one napped quietly and the others played card games like “Go Fish”
and set up their Littlest Pet Shops on the lazy Susan
to show our sweet friend
who expressed genuine delight.
They sat in their seats and were very good indeed…
except the toddler
who played musical chairs
and repeatedly catapulted himself off his high chair,
grinning delightedly under his cropped golden mop:
“Wheee! Whahoo! Wheee!”
Of course the encouraging smiles of the surrounding people
just added fuel to the fire
and when he hid under the table
it wasn’t in shame but in jest…
he was playing house!
It was all well and good until he spilled water all over his pants
and decide to strip down, then and there, in the high chair….
and then bolt–laughing!–
as Daddy followed in hot pursuit.
After being bribed with “Coffey” (sweet milky chai tea)
he temporarily settled back into his high chair
(now in his pants again…which were only pjs…but still)
and sipped his drink off a spoon with relish:
“It’s yummy, Mama; it tastes GOOD!”
And while all this went on
we ate mutter paneer dosa, and chicken korma and naan
and talked faith and philosophy,
the importance of being yourself
and why the little things matter,
and I nursed the baby
and bounced her as she cooed and giggled
those new little laughs
that are like spring flowers
meeting with the world for the first time
to share their loveliness.
And once the kids escaped their seats
and scampered about eating fennel seed candy,
we settled up and walked home in the slight rain
to the scent of June roses
perfuming the grey evening with hope
and splashes of colour.