Everything is like birth. And everything is like death.

*I wrote this in April but it was way too much to process at the time.  I am a safe distance from these things now, so I can share.  
 
 
My grampa’s one year deathaversary was just last week.  I spoke to my grandmother on the phone and we were able to enter into that sacred space of being candid and vulnerable and imperfect.  She has not slept well this last year without her partner and friend of over 60 years.  I told her I could not believe it had already been a year.  It feels like he just died.  My father died almost 17 years ago and it feels like he just died yesterday.  So much time has passed and the wounds are fresh and tender.  
 
Me: Gramma, does it feel like he [grampa] just died?
Gram: Sometimes yes and no.  Sometimes it feels like he has been gone for too long.  And sometimes it feels he was just here.
Me: Yeah.
 
Yeah.  That is exactly how it feels sometimes.  I remember holding his soft cool hand by his bedside as he lay there dying.  I sang him hymns.  He struggled to breathe.  I compulsively checked his radial pulse.  His heart just would not quit.  His face was gaunt.  He did not speak.  We waited and watched.  We waited for his death.  It took him a very long time to let go and to die.  It feels like it just happened yesterday.  Every pain and smell and sound is so near.  
 
Last week I was able to see my best friend give birth.  I was there when her first baby was born.  Six years ago her daughter was born in a hospital.  She had an epidural and I held one of her legs and her husband held the other.  She breathed and pushed and her daughter was born.  Today her daughter is leggy with golden pink hair and a coy smile.  I held that kid once as a swaddled burrito, her belly button scab came off on my shirt and I thought I broke her.  The 6 year old (that she has magically become) and I have a mad crazy bond.  She will always be my first kid, my first baby that I desperately love.  It is strange that she talks to me in full sentences.  It is strange that she knows stuff.  And she knows so much stuff.  It feels like she was just born yesterday.  

Last week I saw her sibling born, at home- a natural tub birth.  It was much different from watching my friend labor the first time.  I still held a leg, though.  The labor was long.  There was breathing and prayer and encouragement.  There was hand holding and grasping.  There was waiting.  There was listening and checking for the baby’s heart beat; it was so loud and strong- that little beat.  The labor was 16 hours.  For her 6th child, that was a long labor.  But then she pushed, and her son shot through the water in the tub and bobbed to the surface.  
 

 

The stark similarities between my grandfather’s death and my friend’s birthing are not lost to me.  The events were so similar, but they were so different.     



  

Safety Not Guaranteed

For as long as I can remember God has been my center.  I knew this even as a small child.  Now, as an alleged grown person, I wonder what that means.  I was raised with a simple faith.  I do not think my family meant to give me such a flimsy faith, but they could only give me what they had.  I was told to put a Bible under my pillow to protect me from bad dreams (it has never worked and I still suffer from bad dreams).  I was taught that you pray.  I somehow absorbed that if we pray we can get everything that we need.  This is simply not true.
 
I have to tell you that every single time I realize that there is no safety net as I walk this high wire, it is as if my body is being slammed onto a brick wall at a high speed.  It just sucks that there is no protection for us.  So I have always struggled with prayer and to figure out who this God is that I am drawn to, whom I beg to stay by my side.  
 
Dear God, please be with me.  
 
I always thought that my safe passage in this world was guaranteed because I was in the God club; I was saved.  Isn’t that what saved means?  As a girl I had many prayers: that we could live in a house, that the scars on my knees would go away, and that my dad wouldn’t have cancer anymore.  My dad died of cancer.  I never lived in a house with my dad.  My knees are still banged up.  

God, I am so tired.  I need strength.
 
So with my heart and guts wrenched out, why is it that I still find myself praying to this God?  
 
God, you have thousands upon thousands of angels.  Can you send one in please.  I know you can.  
 
So what the shit is prayer for anyway?  I met a girl in college who I grew to love.  I knew that I could not live without her.  But I was so afraid of her dying.  She was so sick.  I wanted to pray for her healing.  I wanted to ask God to let me keep her.  I knew prayer did not work like that.  I prayed anyway.  My prayers were always frantic and beggy.  They still are.  I wept and sobbed.  I carry with me so many stories of unanswered prayers: stillborn babies, orphaned children, uncured illnesses, burned down and flooded homes, small wounds that led to amputation because there wasn’t enough money to see a real doctor, a starving mother with twins who only has enough milk to nurse one baby.  I hold these tragedies in my heart, and carry them with me wherever I go.  My natural inclination is still to pray.  
 
Please, God.  Please help.  Send help soon. 
 
[cricket chirping noises]
 
There isn’t anything else to do but pray.  That is why I still do it.  I get so mad sometimes that God brought me into this world.  I did not agree to the terms of this life.  Yet here I am- alive.  This life on this earth is so very, very, painful.  I have lost things I cannot live without.  I will continue to lose people I cannot live without.  We are subjected to great suffering here.  
 
God, I am so tired.  
 
Why am I still here?  Because I can hear God calling me to stay.  It feels like I am treading water in the cold open ocean and the sharks can smell blood.  Every now and then, I feel warmth, I get a deep breath, someone lets me rest my head on their shoulders and swims for me.  The girl I met in college is healed.
 
God, thank you.  Just- thank you.  Help me hold on to this relief.
 
Before I feel rested I am back to treading water again with salt water up my nose, chapped lips, and a sore body.
 
Ugh, God.  I don’t know how much longer I can do this.
 
I still hesitate to pray.  It is hard to ask when the answer seems to so often be a still and silent- no.  I just cannot resist prayer.  Even when I am filled with doubt, my mind does it anyway.  I ask for the easiest way out of things, and the only thing God gives me is God.  I am not promised safe passage through this world.  I will continue to have my heart wrenched out of my chest.  God will continue to be there by my side like a faint whisper.