anyhow, as i was sorting through all the pictures--which are very poorly organized, i might add, much like the rest of my life--i came across this picture, taken on september 12 last year.
i remembered posting it here once upon a time (did you recognize it, faithful few?), and went looking for the post. interestingly--but unrelatedly, i might add--i posted it on sam's and my anniversary this year. which is not when it was taken at all. but i didn't explain, in that post, when it was taken or why, because that post was about something entirely different. i promised i might explain it someday. well, as if you've been holding your breath, here is the long awaited explanation.
i spent much of eliza's life trying not to get too used to her being around. does that sound terrible? it's not exactly that i thought i'd jinx it if i got comfortable, but i just didn't want to find myself too unprepared for the inevitable. a morbid way to live your child's life, i know. i didn't admit this to myself very often, but i realized from time to time that it was true. like if i kept expecting it, the unexpected could never happen. i'm afraid that even in my most faithful moments, i can fall victim to magical thinking. can't we all? didn't you grow up wishing on birthday candles and eyelashes and coins tossed in fountains, after all? i remember thinking, when eliza was barely clinging to life in the hospital in her first few weeks, that i couldn't admit to God that my biggest fear was neither that she would die nor that she would live but that she'd end up somewhere in between for just a little while. it didn't help cure me of my magical thinking that, having admitted that, i got pretty much just what i feared most, as if God heard me and tried to give me the biggest challenge He could come up with, just because i told Him that was it.
all that is to say that it took me a long time to adjust to the idea that eliza might long outlive the doctors' predictions. but sometime around the spring of 2008, when eliza had already passed her second unexpected birthday, i began the very, very gradual shift from crisis mode to long-term mode. sam and i had conversations about how we could sustain the pace we had been keeping indefinitely, about the state and future of our family, about how to live life with eliza in some sort of "everyday" mode instead of moment to moment. to that end, i began the unbelievable process of looking for nursing help with eliza.
if you know me, you know a few things about me: 1) i don't like to admit i can't do something, 2) if you tell me i can't do something, i'll definitely do it, 3) i'm pretty sure i can do anything. (i credit my parents for both my stick-to-itiveness and my foolhardy confidence; thanks, guys.) so when people who saw my life with eliza told me things like, "you've got to get some help," and "you can't keep this up indefinitely," and "you can't take care of anyone else if you don't take care of yourself," they unknowingly drove me to further determination to do it all, and to do it better, too. with that background, then, you'll understand why it took me as long as it did to accept the idea that i might need a little help...which everybody else seemed to know long before i did.
that's a very long introduction to say that sometime in the late spring of 2008, i decided to get some help from a nurse aide. little did i know how long it would take to find one. first there was paperwork upon red tape upon paperwork for medicaid and insurance and nursing agencies. then finally in the fall, there were nurse aides...yikes! from one who smoked to one who helped herself to my computer and journal to one who never showed up to one who quit willy-nilly and had no contact information--yes, there were some doozies. i was ready to give up many times; how could i trust some unreliable stranger with my daughter's care when i barely trusted my own husband with her?!?
(insert deep breath here. sigh. but i'm getting ahead of myself.)
the first nurse aide, one of many who did not work out, made her first visit on september 12 of last year. i forced myself to leave the house, even just for an hour, which took all i had in me and much prayer. when i returned home, exhausted beyond belief from worry about whether eliza was okay without me (pride, pride, i know!), i was relieved to find out that everything was okay (i would later find out about the computer and journal, but as for eliza, all was very well). as i walked the nurse aide out and watched her drive off, i saw the rainbow in that photograph and ran for my camera.
in the story of noah's ark in the book of genesis, God uses a rainbow as a sign of His covenant, His promise that he will never again send a world-rending flood (genesis 9:13). in the book of revelation, God's throne is described as ringed by a rainbow (revelation 4:3). and in the book of ezekiel, God's glory is compared to the rainbow's appearance (ezekiel 1:28). i decided to take my rainbow that day as a sign of God's promise to care for eliza, as a covenant with me that she would indeed be okay in the hands of a nurse aide, as a confirmation and encouragement of my decision to hand over some control.
i had completely forgotten, until i sat at my computer today backing up files, that my rainbow appeared on september 12.
you see, september 12 this year hit me particularly hard. exactly nine months since eliza had died, i was struck afresh by the relativity of time. nine months. if you're a woman who has ever given birth to a child (or a man who has lived with such a woman!), you know how significant that amount of time is. nine months is an eternity. with both of my children, born a week and two weeks early respectively, i thought i would be pregnant forever. forever. i remember telling my mother a week before luke was born that i was convinced he was, in fact, not a child but a tumor with which i would have to live forever. nine months is so very, very long.
but here, nine months had passed as if in the blink of an eye. my daughter, who had taken nine months to be knit together in my womb, was gone nine months already. nine months is, in fact, no time at all.
which, as you might have anticipated, got me thinking about the nature of time. about the fact that what to us seems like an eternity is but a blink of true Eternity. paul simon sang, "a man walks down the street, he says, why am i short of attention? got a short little span of attention, and, oh, my nights are so long."
if you'll be my bodyguard, i can be your long-lost pal...i can call you betty, and betty when you call me, you can call me al...
ahem. sorry. i do love that song.
we have no idea what a "long time" is. i remember telling a friend shortly after eliza died that i was glad she was free and healed and couldn't wait to see her as such...but it felt like such a long time to wait. Lord willing, i still have a lifetime ahead of me, a lifetime that i can't imagine passing waiting to see eliza again. yet now this nine months has passed, and i've barely noticed. meanwhile, my first baby is losing teeth it seems he just got yesterday; as i sit in the carpool line at school, i realize it will be just another blink before he is driving himself. and time keeps on blinking by. but i can barely stand how long it is taking to back up these pictures--at my computer all day!--and i've barely scratched the surface.
we have no understanding whatsoever of time or its significance. someday, the book of revelation promises, "He will wipe every tear from their eyes. there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away" (revelation 21:4). but we cry out with the psalmist, how long, oh Lord? ecclesiastes 3 not only promises that there is a time for everything but that God "has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what He has done from beginning to end" (ecclesiastes 3:11-12). past tense. He has done it already. eternity is already complete, and is in our hearts, and we can't understand it.