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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Singing (10/31/05)

TITLE: Lullaby
By Ann Grover
11/06/05


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In her sixth month, she started singing in her sleep. At first, it was a gentle rise and fall, just a simple humming. Gradually, over the weeks, it became a melody, soft and sweet, a soothing and comforting lullaby.

Sometimes, the singing woke her up, and the notes would disappear like morning mist, leaving her feeling vaguely empty.

In the still moments before sunrise, her husband would hear the singing while he drank his morning coffee, and he would wonder about the strange, lilting music.

Finally, the morning came when she sang in her sleep for the last time. By nightfall, she was writhing in fiery pain as the child sought deliverance from her swollen body. There was no singing, just anguished cries to God for strength and relief.

The hours became the second day, and then the baby was pulled from her exhausted body, both of them bloodied. But the baby did not breathe. He was quickly wrapped and taken away; she was left cold and bewildered.

She spent several days in a grief-induced haze, succumbing to the mind-numbing drugs they had given her in an attempt to heal her body. But she could still feel the pain in her heart, throbs of sorrow pulsing through her veins. Why did she still breathe?

On a midsummer day, she let herself be led to a grassy hillside, a raw gouge marring the earth, turned-up soil smelling damp in the heat. Deer flies gnawed at her legs, but she didn’t feel their stinging. The sun’s rays bore down on her back, but she was oblivious to their warmth. Instead, a chill was wrapping itself around her heart; she felt nothing but its icy talons.

There was no pastor, only an elderly deacon and a handful of ladies. A few words were spoken, and a hymn was weakly sung, its feeble notes whisked away by the breeze rustling in the nearby trees.

She was mesmerized by the little coffin. She tried to imagine the tiny boy within, dressed in a used christening gown and swaddled in a white blanket from Woolworth’s. She had not seen the baby, rushed away as he had been, and then she’d been encouraged not to see him at all. She tried not to think of his certain perfection.

As the ladies left, a few of them laid confident hands on her arm, encouraging her to repent of whatever had caused God to glance her way with such malevolence. She kept her eyes cast to the ground, receiving their accusations, guilt washing over her again and again.

When she went home, she shut the door of the nursery and sealed up her heart. The regret of not seeing the baby hardened her; she hadn’t even insisted on holding his lifeless body, a simple motherly act. She took small comfort in having sung lullabies to him in her sleep.

The years flowed and ebbed. Three babies came, babies that smiled and grew. They were her joy, but she guarded her love for them carefully, not to love too much or too little. Eventually, she stopped going to the cemetery, stopped taking flowers, and stopped thinking about the little headstone that bore an engraving of a little lamb. She never sang in her sleep again, and the songs she sang while awake were empty words.

Finally, there came a day when someone chose to look past her dead eyes and into her barren heart, where the rhythm of the secret singing still faintly pulsed. The faithful friend walked with her and held her, and gradually, the frozen hardness began to relinquish its hold on her spirit.

The same midsummer day came, and again, she let herself be led by the friend to the grassy hillside. The glaze of the headstone had been worn away by the snows of twenty-five winters, but the lamb remained. A ring of daisies grew around the stone, their yellow centers facing the sun.

She traced her son’s name and, with a sense of awe, felt hot tears burning down her cheeks. The pent-up mourning was released, pouring from her in a litany of anguish, a chorus of sorrow.

Then, the sound of singing came, with an otherworldly harmony.

“Alleluia...”

Sing for me once more...

“Alleluia...”

The angels sing and rejoice...

“Alleluia...”

And she sang her acceptance with the final ‘Alleluia’...


__________

Note: Italicized words from “The Funeral Liturgy.” The Book of Alternative Services of The Anglican Church of Canada. Toronto: Anglican Book Center, 1985.


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This article has been read 925 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Lucian Thompson11/07/05
This one brought my tears.
Jan Ackerson 11/09/05
"...When she went home, she shut the door of the nursery and sealed up her heart..." That's one powerful sentence, in a magnificent piece of writing.
Sally Hanan11/09/05
Carefully chosen words to convey exactly what you wanted to convey and a realistic timeline..well done.
Brandi Roberts11/09/05
You continue to astound me with the level of work you put out. This one gave me goosebumps and brought tears to my eyes. "Alleluia"
Shari Armstrong 11/09/05
A tough story to read, the loss of a child is heartbreaking. One thing I wasn't sure about -were the accusing looks really there? or just her guilt bothering her?
Debbie Sickler11/09/05
Ann, this was so believably written. I could relate to her guarding her heart against her other children because of her loss. Very touchingly written.
Suzanne R11/10/05
Wow. Skillfully written indeed, leading the reader right into the mind and heart of the main character. Thank goodness women who go through similar trauma these days are generally encouraged to hold and farewell their child, even if it is only their body. And thus to properly grieve. (A good friend was in this exact situation recently.)

Powerful writing - I love the phrase about the faint rhythm of the singing still pulsing faintly in her heart and the friend that led her through the healing process eventually.
terri tiffany11/10/05
wow..this was so good! You described her pain in such vivid words. I love your descriptions..and that she found peace..you write well:))
Debbie OConnor11/10/05
Powerful writing!
Lori Othouse 11/11/05
Wow, this was amazing! Very moving and powerful. Excellent piece of writing!
Julianne Jones11/11/05
There's been some touching entries this week but this is the only one that has brought tears to my eyes. My mother never saw or held her first born son, and even though the children that followed were loved, she too guarded her heart. Thank you for sharing this incredibly powerful piece of writing.