I couldn’t sleep last night.
I wondered what my job is today. A day the world outside is a cruel and random place. A day the reality of living in war-torn nations and towns, a reality I can read about but not understand, a reality I can look at in photos but not see, comes to our backyard, takes our children, and leaves us feeling foolhardy, that we ever felt so safe.
I think about the mothers, mostly. I think about the insistence of life moving along. I think about the mothers whose children’s souls the angels now have, and I think about the women struggling to bring new life – insistent life – into this world, while tragedy is happening. Each of these mothers, overtaken by the tidal wave of her child. Aware of nothing but that child, her baby, her everything, into which she has poured untold gallons of milk and blood and water. The child her body has made, has preferred over its own self, has expelled at the perfect time in determination and terror. The child that has awed her, the child that made her own heart petrify her. How that child is everything.
I think about how everyone we lose is some mother’s baby, and I look at my own baby, who sleeps peacefully or tosses and complains, looking for mama’s skin or milk, finds mama, clutches me. I look at her and I know with everything in me that she could not be safe tonight, and I stare in wonderment that she is. I know then I am the same as these mothers losing their children, trying to keep their children safe in a world that is not safe, bringing their children into the world despite emergencies a few blocks or floors away. We are all on the edge of oblivion. The only thing that keeps us tethered to solid ground is this child, this precious, this flesh from our flesh and blood from our blood.
And I wonder what my job is.
How do you save this day? I am neither doctor nor EMT nor cop nor journalist nor saint. I don’t know how to heal the bloodstained bricks of Boston. I don’t know how to take the mothers in my arms and keep them from sinking over the cliff when their children cannot. I don’t know how to heal the wounded. I want to. But how.
For now I am mothering and praying. I am sinking into the reality that to have my daughter safe, to have my family safe, to be on this side of oblivion for just one more day is a blessing for which I am incapable of feeling sufficient gratitude. So I sit here whispering alhamdulillah, hallelujah, to the empty boxes in my new Boston apartment. I sit here asking God to heal our broken hearts. I sit here asking God to make humanity better, to make us more human, more humane. I sit here praying for the mothers struggling to birth, struggling to feed and keep their children safe, struggling through grief. I sit a mother, in solidarity with all the mothers, a citizen of the world in a way I wasn’t 36 hours ago. I sit here in my new old city, the city in which I met and married my husband, the city in which I have loved and worked and played and cried and learned and grown up, my city. I sit here wanting to heal it, holding my sleeping baby, hoping those can be the same thing.