July 18, 2013
When I awoke this morning I wondered what it was that I was supposed to remember and then I remembered. Forty-two years ago today I gave birth to my daughter Amy, a stillbirth, or as I prefer to call it, a still-life. For if life is what is with us until we die, then Amy’s life is still with me. It was an internal life, and then, when her time came to enter the world, she declined.
I have watched Joel for the last year working on a series of still life’s, have watched as he collects inanimate objects that somehow speak to him, arranging them lovingly against a mysterious backdrop and then, in the fleeting moment it takes to open and close a shutter, he brings them to life.
Amy speaks to me once in a while; always the same words; here I am, be gentle. The horror of her death is long gone; all those interminable hours and days, weeks and months of stultifying grief and disbelief. And almost exactly a year after she was born I conceived my beautiful Isabel, on Independence day as it turned out; a perfect day to claim her rightful place. And although I often refer to Amy as my first child, I never refer to Isabel as my second: she is my one and only and has followed in no-one’s footsteps. I like to think that Amy made a bed for her to lie upon and then disappeared like a feather in the breeze.
And so it is that she wafts my way sometimes and always shows up on this day; a wisp of a spirit, too gentle for this world. I honor her with a posy every year. Some of them, during our years on Cape Cod, I kayaked out to sea, placing the posy on the rippling waves, watching as she floated out of sight.
Today I pick flowers from my Tuscan garden and place them in a vase on what we’ve come to call the altar. Here she sits beneath a painting Gianni made as a young boy. She has the place of honor between two hand-blown glass candlesticks and a pair of antique French kid gloves, their skin as soft as any newborn’s.
I stand quietly for a few moments, honoring all that is and never was, and even after all these years, a few tears slide down my cheeks. Sorrow accompanies us, not the agony of it, but the soft touch of its mystery, like a feather in the breeze.