Like any good Catholic, as I stood in line this Ash Wednesday morning to receive my ashes at Mass, I was thinking about the heap of files on my desk which were begging for my attention the moment I left church. I was lost in my to-do list when I felt someone from across the moving aisle touch my arm. I looked over to see a family friend look down at my belly, and back up at me with a smile. And suddenly, the day's list of things to do was forgotten.
Pregnant women have a glow. It's true. I find people whispering and pointing at me with smiles on their faces everywhere I go. I think pregnant women just make people happy. But I've found that this pregnancy makes people exceptionally happy. Blake told me that one night he got a call from Gail, a food server in the hotel where Blake bartends and Ben was formerly the executive chef but whom I hardly know, and she demanded to know if it was true that I was pregnant. She is alleged to have cried when Blake confirmed for her that I am. This pregnancy has done more than just bring me joy - This pregnancy has restored the faith of so many all around me. This pregnancy has been a sign for family, friends, and anonymous followers who have witnessed miracle as well as the grief and the pain of Gabriel's short life and subsequent death, that life can and does in fact go on. More than that, even through pain we can find triumph.
It's been difficult since Gabriel's diagnosis to know what could be the right thing to give up for Lent. I feel that I've already given everything. In fact, I think the Lenten season finds me a little angry at God - We make such a big deal of God having given His only son to die for our sins, and we talk about how great His love for us must be because of this sacrifice. But God didn't really do anything that He hasn't asked many parents on earth to do too. What makes God so big and bad? More importantly, if He knows that grief so well, why has He put other parents through it? I don't feel that bad for God, because He could have spared us all the pain.
Of course, that line of thinking doesn't take into consideration the good that God can bring from what seems so bad. Because Jesus died, we get to live forever. But even if you don't buy that, I can tell you that because my son died, I have lived every day for him, even when I didn't want to. I have lived because he can't. I fight, because he fought. I cherish Gabriel's new brother or sister not just because he or she is my child, but because I know that even loving and cherishing that child is not enough to change God's will for them, but love is what I have to give. I love Marcos because I know what it's like to endure heartbreak and I love that somewhere deep inside of me I know that I can trust that he will always take care of my heart. And maybe, maybe, I wouldn't know how to love Marcos or how to accept his love if I didn't also know how to hurt.
My hurt has been very public. Pregnancy, childbirth, the death of a child, and the death of a marriage can be very public things these days - almost unavoidably so. Rather than dodge the public eye, I've embraced it, and chosen to show the world that I am sensitive and vulnerable and susceptible to very raw, very human emotions. I think a lot of people have hurt right along with me, for me. I think a lot of people have learned to grapple their own ghosts and demons and emotions through my sharing. I think a lot of people genuinely share in my happiness now. I think a lot of people have found through my experience that faith and perserverence can pave the way to happiness. In our hearts, it's something we all want to believe.
"I'm so happy for you," people stop me to proclaim. And they glow. And I know that it is more than just happiness for me that causes them to beam. I know it is their renewed faith that lights them up inside.
On this day I as a Catholic am reminded that I came from dust, and to dust I shall return. It's a reminder not of my mortality, but of the mortality of the temporal life. I've of course made the great leap of faith to believe that there is life beyond the dust. And maybe there is and maybe there isn't but one way or another I guess I can't confirm it until I'm there. What I do know is that I've got one life to live here and during that life I don't just want to live, I want to rise from the dust in triumph.