Write In Between

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Writer's Wednesday - Gregory Floyd

One of the hardest things for [my wife Maureen] was that from the time of the accident she had never been able to hold Johnny. He had gone from the ambulance to the hospital and had been wired up, in traction, and lying on the bed, unconscious. Every motherly instinct in her craved to hold him and comfort him, to take away the pain, to do anything to make it better. But she could not. To hold him one last time was a need eclipsed only by desire...

We walked... into a smaller room. There, lying on a bed, eyes covered with bandages, was our beloved little boy. Small. Blond. Freckled. Cold. Dead. Immediately we reached out to touch, to embrace. There was nothing to do but weep. "Oh Johnny, Johnny, Johnny. We love you so much." I kissed his forehead. I brushed that impossible blond hair with my hand. Maureen reached for his lips and moved her hands up and down arms and legs so full of life a few short hours ago. We touched his torso but not too closely for fear of moving a bandage. The moment was excruciating, yet sacred. Only it was we who were being crucified. "Would you like to hold him?" one of the nurses asked. "Yes, let's give him to his mother." Maureen sat down and the three of us picked him up and laid him in her arms. And there we were. Mother and son. Mary and Jesus. Maureen and John-Paul.

Some moments are so sacred that one dare not clothe them in anything but silence. I watched as Maureen held her dead child in her arms, and listened as she drew her child to her breast and touched his face with hers. "John-Paul, it was such a privilege to be your mother. It was such a privilege to carry you in my womb. I labored to give birth to you and when you were born I nursed you and fed you and loved you. It was such a privilege to watch you grow up. You were such a good boy, Johnny, and I love you so much, and we can't wait to see you again. Oh, Johnny, I'm so sorry this happened to you. I'm so sorry. Pray for us, Johnny." There she was, touching him, kissing him, stroking him.

Never was a poem written, a painting painted, a song sung that could touch that moment. Time stood still for this maternal lament coming from the recesses of her mother's heart, broken, shattered, uncomprehending, yet filled with faith and love so strong that it knocked the very darkness clear across the room. Rocking her son in her arms as she had done a thousand times before...

There were no words to describe the pain... I had always thought the death of a child was the greatest cross a parent could be asked to bear. And here we were, staggering under its weight.

Yet, beneath the darkness that surrounded us, there it was: one glowing ember. Not yet near enough to give light. But real. A reminder. And it spoke, saying, "I will carry you."

----Gregory Floyd, A Grief Unveiled: One Father's Journey through the Death of a Child.

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