The real tragedy is that he'll never smell like aftershave. He'll never have a cold cheek when his mother kisses him, rough with stubble. He will never feel the tiny hand of his daughter in his.
That is pain, we find, because we are certain those are the things that bring joy, fulfillment. Without them there is dark, he is in the dark. So naturally, we hurt for him in his fade away from what we know to be good. We are fair in that we share our hurt, grief spent over his mother's loss, the family at large. We hurt for everyone's loss.
But really, what is lost is faith.
Where faith resides there is no dark, no drawing away from what is pleasing and joyful. There is only peace and acceptance, warm water to soothe, sun to smile. If you address the unknown with uncertainty you are right in your fear. Where there is a sure spirit there is relief.
So I sat at the back of the room, watching the simple service that preceded the final rest of a baby who has gone, inexplicably gone, and I tried desperately to be the sure spirit. Even later, when friends came to me with their doubts I repeated what I know to be true. There is a path lit only for the knowing, and one must not be among the knowing in order to trust the path. One must only know the path is there and that what is needed will be given without even asking.
Quiet. Then rising. The men of the community, tall and strong, hunched and frail, carried the boy as a sea might move, in waves and ripples across the room, each one straining to touch. Absent the mother and father who continue in pain of a different sort in a different place, these were the mothers and fathers of the moment. I was a mother. I am.
And I was screaming inside my head. "No!" I was screaming for that poor mother who will never return to norm; how could she? And for his father - my God, his father - and his younger brother and sister. I searched frantically for the way. I wanted to get that baby back and just squeeze him to myself and transfer my heat and make him live. I was wretched and wracked, in silence, not the sure spirit. A haze. And just as I was certain I might blare my foolish mistrust out loud, an older man approached me and took my hand and thanked me.
Sincere and crinkled, he was warm and kind and not at all perturbed. He was in the moment with me but not at all like me, not jittery or doubtful. He saw me and knew me and accepted me. Clean.
In his confidence I was at once moved to peace. My heart yawned and steadied to its normal beat.
I could tell you I imagined him and maybe I did. I won't know. I am hardly lost in the blind. I am still weak with questions and fears. Together with these, I know little that cannot be made surreal.
Still. Even when I seem lost to my own self, I find.
There is a path and what is needed will be given without even asking.