27 April, 2010
Seven years ago today, a friend of mine gave birth to a daughter. A striking baby girl with blue eyes and a head full of dark hair. I was called to attend the birth, jumping on a plane in a furious effort to get there on time. I just missed it. She was born quietly with only her parents and their birth attendants in the room. I showed up a few minutes later. There was silence, sadness and shock in a space normally reserved for joy. This little girl was born after having already passed away while cradled in her mama's womb. My friend and her husband held her. Cried with her. Slept with her between them. Took photos, footprints, and a lock of her hair. And, when they felt it was time, they wrapped her up in a blanket and said goodbye.
She may not have been here long, but my friend's daughter existed. She was created from love, she grew for nine months, she was alive. She was anticipated, wanted, seen, touched, and witnessed. And she is not to be forgotten. She was named Zoe, the Greek word for Life.
There is still so much mystery in this living. The here and there. The why, the how, the longing, the density. Seems to me that the best we can do is to continue to open our eyes, our hearts, and to allow one another in. To acknowledge existence and to love–often and unconditionally–even when it is awkward, painful, and uncharted. We must make use of ourselves, our vitality, our ability to see, if we are to have any hope of understanding why we are here.
My own daughter is going to be 14 in a month and is growing up as fast as they say they do. She is planning a service trip to Bolivia this summer where she will serve with the Rio Beni Health Project. I'm proud of her. Proud that she is taking this opportunity to be brave and to test what she's made of. To look beyond the borders of her privileged life and to offer another daughter who needs help an opportunity to be seen (and perhaps a new friend).
I don't understand why my girl is here and my friend's is not, no more than I can understand all of the unthinkable experiences had by daughters in Northern Uganda or in the slums of Jaipur. I simply consider it a blessing to have been able to have visited these places and to have beheld these beings. The gift of being the witness is the profound beauty and connection to be found alongside the part of the story that is hard. One does not exist without the other.
As another wise friend so aptly put it today: those in pain sometimes need a witness just to remind them of the kindness the world still has to offer.
If you would like to learn more about my daughter's upcoming trip, please visit her website here. She makes an awesome chocolate chip cookie and is offering some up for sale to help her make her way.