Sometimes monsters are born in our minds. Phantoms of no substance; merely nightmares gleaned from an overwhelming day. But sometimes they are real, too.
Monsters come about everyday, often unexpectedly, even in the sudden stillness of one perfect moment to the untried moment of the next. There are monsters born in loss and those born in gain; monsters who must surely laugh at man’s weakness in kneeling to them.
Yet, there are also those who fight these monsters, those who do not look for blame or excuse to escape them. Those who have learned to accept them as part of the human condition – those who’ve survived the grinding of the pestle with grace in their hearts and philosophies in their eyes.
Those that have discovered monsters are not fault or divine punishment; monsters, whose powers can be overcome by one simple act of choice.
Becky, my wife, is standing over an empty crib in our nursery. Her hands are to her heart, her gaze long. The room is dark, lit only by the light from the hallway. I come up behind her; there is the scent of a recent bubble bath on her skin. I encircle her body, resting my hand on her swollen belly.
She falls back into my embrace. “I love you,” she whispers.
The completeness of the moment overwhelms me. “Mine, an unvanquished sun,” I answer.
The baby kicks and we laugh at the suddenness. “Hello, Anne,” Becky says. “Do you like your new room? Your daddy painted it princess pink just for you.”
My hands feel her kick again. I smile. “I’ll take that as a yes.” Instinctively, I tighten my hold around my family. “Does it hurt, when she kicks?”
She turns toward me. “No. Yes, but it’s a wonderful kind of pain.”
I look into her eyes and notice a sudden change come over her face. She catches her breath and holds her stomach.
She nods and smiles. “Yes, John, I think it’s time.”
Sometimes things go unspoken between expectant parents. Things the doctor said might or might not be concerning – things not to worry about, but be mindful of - unexpected things most parents believe and pray would never happen.
“Push,” the doctor coaxes.
“I am,” Becky’s voice comes back forceful, irritated. She’s been in labor for over two hours. She looks at me. “I blame you for this.”
I wipe beads of perspiration from her forehead. “If I remember right, at the moment, it was something we both wanted.” There was a hint of smile as she clutches my hand.
“I love you,” she breathes, looking at me. “And Annie, too; that’s what we'll call her, isn’t it? Annie.”
Here eyes are fathomless and for the briefest moment, I am lost in them. I lean over and kiss her. “I love you back and yes, Annie is a beautiful name.”
Suddenly, Becky grasps my hand…
Sounds are a strange thing. Some so familiar they seem to fill space largely unnoticed until they stop. Like the ticking of a clock, crickets in a forest or beep of a heart monitor in a delivery room.
And quiet sometimes harbors monsters in its emptiness. Death is such a monster.
The doctor said amniotic fluid from Annie’s sac had somehow breached a blood vessel in Becky’s uterus and traveled to her heart, stopping it –
It seems that only in death can one remain, the tides of life forces the living to move on. Surely, God must see the desperate scratch marks left in the salty waters of those who would stay with those waiting behind; I know He must see mine.
I first saw Annie through the viewing window on the nursery floor of the hospital. An attendant motioned me inside. At the door, she helped me with smock and mask.
My trembling however had no such prophylactic cover; and, as I held my daughter, I feared my tears might somehow harm her. She looked up at me and I saw Becky’s eyes. I rocked her in the crook of my arm until she fell asleep.
Alone at home I walk into the nursery, dark but for the hall light. The scent of a bubble bath still lingers. The room is quiet and a monster of loss has been born in its emptiness. I think of being swept away from Becky in the tides of life. I think of Annie asleep in my arms.
I face the monster and choose to fight.
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