Friday, April 6, 2012
The Gospel according to John: It was now nearing the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the time had come for Him to go from this world to the Father. He had loved His own who were in the world, and He loved them to the end. 2 So, at supper, the Devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray Him. 3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had put everything into His hands and that He had come from God and was going back to God, 4 got up from supper, laid aside His gown, took a cloth, and fastened it around Him. 5 Next, He poured water into a washbasin and began to wash the feet of His disciples, wiping them with the cloth He had tied around Him.
6 Finally He came to Simon Peter, who said to Him, "Lord, are You going to wash my feet?" 7 Jesus said to him, "You don't understand now what I am doing, but later on you will know." 8 "I Will never let You wash my feet," said Peter to Him, "No, never!" Jesus answered him, "Unless I wash you, you will have no fellowship with Me." 9 "Lord," said Simon Peter to Him, "not only my feet, but my hands and head also." 10 Jesus said to him, "He that is washed needs only to have his feet washed to be completely clean. And now you are clean - but not every one of you." 11 For He knew who was to betray Him. That is why He said, "Not all of you are clean."
12 When He had washed their feet and put on His gown, He sat down again. "Do you understand," He asked them, "what I have done to you? 13 You call Me Teacher and Lord. You are right, for I am all of that. 14 Well, if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, then you, too, should wash one another's feet. 15 For I have set you an example, and you should do as I do to you. 16 I tell you truly, a servant is not greater than his Master, nor is a messenger greater than He who sent him. 17 If you know this you will be blessed, if you do it.
As I listened to these words at Mass on Holy Thursday, I was reminded of a moment with Ben early in our relationship, when we were watching T.V. at his place and I gave him a foot massage. Four years later, he still recalls that as one of the first moments when he knew he loved me. Ben has a chef's feet, complete with all the wear and tear that comes from standing for 12 hours a day plus. He has shared with me that he was amazed that I would touch his feet to massage them, so early in our relationship.
From what I recall, we were watching American Idol, a show that I know Ben detests, and one his roommate made fun of us for watching. Ben had done something kind for me, and I wanted to do something kind for him in return, but it was not an entirely pure gesture on my part.
Now, as my anger softens and I start to look honestly at the many ways that I failed in our relationship, I have to consider that one of my failures occurred the day I stopped rubbing Ben's feet. It wasn't as though one day I just decided not to do it anymore, but little by little, when Ben would request a foot rub, I would make it some sort of exchange -- I will, if you will do this or that. And this brings to mind that the failure really began when I did this act for Ben not out of kindness, but in return for something else, whether he knew it or not.
This is not to say that I believe I was Ben's servant. I am his wife, even now according to the law, and he is my husband, and we were to be in each other's service, and we were not to stop serving each other because we were no longer getting something in return. Even a secular couple will say that a marriage is not a give and take of 50% and 50%, but requires a commitment from each partner to give 100% all of the time. Somewhere along the line, I stopped giving 100%. As much as I would like to say I love Ben without conditions, that it is a love that will not end just because we separate, I know that I did put conditions on the terms under which I would show Ben love, namely that he show me love in the way that I wanted. I failed too, and there will be no repairing our relationship, and certainly no success in any sort of future relationship, romantic or otherwise, if I cannot admit my faults in what is supposed to be the most important relationship that I have with another person.
Perhaps the best way that I determined Ben must prove that he loves me was by having another baby immediately after Gabriel was born. Accordingly, I felt most rejected not just by Ben's objection to having another baby so soon, but by what I see as him misleading me into thinking we would. I gave very little consideration to how Ben felt, thinking only of how desparately I wanted a family, how much I wanted to ensure that my parents had living grandchildren that they would be able to spend time with for a significant portion of those children's lives, how I wanted to start a family while my brother is still living in town, how I wanted to keep up with the friends and relatives that are having children now so that my own children have built-in playmates. I never thought my wants were selfish, as they were so often things I wanted for someone other than myself, but those desires so often put pressure on Ben, who was already struggling to grieve properly, that I suppose I cannot be entirely surprised by the way things have unraveled.
Following Gabriel's birth and passing, a number of people expressed to me that they thought I should wait to have another baby. I take offense to that "suggestion," as I doubt people would comment on my NOT having another baby right away and I am not quite sure why someone would think it is propert to comment on the decision TO have another. I know the suggestions were meant to be kind, as people asserted I should take time to heal and not try to "replace" Gabriel, but I can't imagine what is more healing than a new life, any more than I can imagine that anyone could think I would ever try to replace my Gabriel. People that know my beliefs know that I keep my marriage open to God's will for children and that wasn't going to change. However, what I have come to realize is that God's will hasn't been for me to have another child right away, as much as I have tried to convince God that He should help me out on this matter. I had decided that another baby right away should be my reward for carrying Gabriel to term, as if people should be rewarded just for doing the right thing. When I step back from my desire for a baby I see that I have been rewarded immeasurably by my experience with Gabriel. How can I ask for anything more than the ten days I had with him, when so many parents of anencephalic babies don't get nearly that much time? I suppose it's because most parents get much more than ten days, and even ten days is not enough to satisfy a mourning mother. But it has to be. I would be remiss if I didn't note that on this day, Good Friday, God witnessed the violent death of His only begotten Son, and the reward for that sacrifice was ours.
A crop of rainbow babies has been born recently, making this spring a new beginning for so many families. Those babies bring hope to so many more than just their own parents. The anencephalic community is one big family, thanks to the internet, and we are all touched by the new lives born into our virtual family.
Nichole, mother to a toddler boy, an anencephalic baby named Emmalynn, and a recent widow of an Iraqi war veteran, gave birth to her rainbow baby Lainey. Nichole became a mother much younger than I did, but I look up to her as one of the strongest women I know, and I take joy in her own new joy just as she rejoiced with me when Gabriel was born and held on for so long, and grieved with me when he passed. Natasha, whose baby boy Rafael also shares the name of an archangel, had her rainbow baby Leilani not much more than one month after she celebrated Rafael's first birthday. Amanda, one of the first anen moms that I contacted, who I happened to contact not long after her Gracie was born and passed from anencephaly, is due with her rainbow baby boy very soon.
This Easter week, two more rainbow babies were born. Tabitha, mommy to anencephalic baby Elizabeth, brought Elizabeth's baby sister Naomi into the world on Wednesday. Naomi's name fits perfectly: Beautiful; delightful. And just today, Noah was born to Josie, just one year and two days after his big brother Theo was born with anencephaly and subsequently passed. Josie and her husband Marlon kept Noah's name a secret until he was born, and they also were surprised by his gender. Now that he is here, I can't think of a more perfect name than Noah. It was Noah, after all, who represented mankind in their new covenant with God, when God sent a rainbow as His promise to us that we would never see such a storm again.
I delight in these new lives, and I thank Lainey, Leilani, Naomi and Noah for reminding a woman who tends to forget of God's promise.
**** Update: Five hours after publishing this entry, Amanda announced on Facebook that her rainbow baby Benjamin was born today, Good Friday.