Audrey and I looked through our wedding album the other day. In the box I found a few of our wedding programs- like your funeral program, they are tied with a ribbon- this one is a spring green.
I’d forgotten that I included a favorite poem by Christina Rossetti at the back. It’s called “A Birthday”
My heart is like a singing bird
Whose nest is in a watered shoot;
My heart is like an apple tree
Whose boughs are bent with thick-set fruit;
My heart is like a rainbow shell
That paddles in a halcyon sea,
My heart is gladder than all these,
Because my love is come to me.
Raise me a dais of silk and down;
Hang it with vair and purple dyes;
Carve it in doves and pomegranates,
And peacocks with a hundred eyes;
Work it in gold and silver grapes,
In leaves and silver fleur-de-lys;
Because the birthday of my life
Is come, my love is come to me.
The birthday of my life- I think about that phrase. Once you give birth to a child of your own, the idea of a birthday takes on a whole different meaning than the one you celebrated your whole life. It is about anticipation- waiting and longing and dreaming. It is about pain and ripping and pushing. And it is about pure elation and joy upon the fulfillment of hope.
But it occurs to me now that it is also very much about faith- the King James Bible says it’s the “substance of things hoped for,” and “the evidence of things not seen.” Even with modern technology that allowed me to witness Audrey growing in my womb with a little bit of jelly smeared on my abdomen, it was all still a matter of faith- especially in the early days when you don’t really feel that different.
But on that day when the baby emerges, you know. You know because you can see her face to face. Oh how I longed to see your face while I was waiting for you, Audrey.
Our union, Daniel- was the birthday of my life- also something that was anticipated for many years. It began as a young girl, and continued until I met you. I was waiting in faith, believing in our existence before you arrived. You weren’t big on birthdays- you said “What’s the big deal?” “It’s just a day.” “It’s a celebration of life,” I said. Especially later in our relationship, I had to tell you, “Look, I’m just communicating to you, birthdays are important to me, so make sure you do something!” But once Audrey was born, I don’t think I had to tell you that as much anymore. I think you got it.
I am pregnant with grief now. It is a long labor. But I think I have faith. Faith in the evidence of things unseen. Now I see a “poor reflection as in a mirror,” but then I “shall see face to face.” “Now I know in part, then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” Like those first fuzzy black and white ultrasound pictures that filled me with such adrenaline, I will walk around holding this grief in my coat pocket in the winter. I hope it is you who greets me on the birthday of my life Dan…on the day I leave this womb of a world.