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Clara's Grief

Clara knows I'm not her dead baby. Of course she does. Still, when quiet Clara catches a glimpse of me she begins to bleat, insistently imploring me to draw near. When I do draw near and bend down and rub her ears she brings her face up to mine--nose to nose--so that we breathe the same air. In the first days after her birthing, she would turn her head and nibble at my hair when I tended to her tender behind.

I don't know how she experiences me now, but she no longer holds me at arm's length. We are drawn inexplicably and tenderly toward each other.

Hard things do that. Grief does that.

Clara went into labor almost three weeks early. Because of my inexperience it lasted longer, and was harder than it should have been. Yet she treated me as her companion-in-sorrow, and didn't want me to leave her alone. She delivered (was delivered of) two beautifully marked and fully formed stillborn babies, plus a mummified tiny third one that hints at the cause for her premature labor.

Her grief did not look like mine. Tears did not leak out of her eyes. Where in her body does she feel grief? I could assume she didn't experience it, but do not want to risk being wrong.

After tending to Clara, I held her babies and took in their floppy overly-long soft ears, tiny rubbery white hooves, the moon spot and black strip down the sable back of the first girl, whose glossy black and sable coat and peaceful face made me wonder anew at the ordinary miracle of what seed and egg can become. I noted the mostly black with sable brown coloring of the second motionless girl, who came out warm (of course she did), and fit easily in my two hands. I told Clara she made beautiful babies.

In the cold light of these early mornings and the frail wintry light at the close of the day I take Clara's milk, nourishment intended for her babies, which will become goat milk soap, yogurt, maybe mozzarella cheese. I wonder what she feels as I take her milk. Does she remember it was intended for someone else and grieve still? Maybe, yet she also seems to be living the moment she is in, and I think she considers milking a good one because we are side-by-side and I'm bringing relief from a full udder.

Maybe goats move more quickly through pain-filled moments of grief into a quiet acceptance of the moment they are in. If so, I wonder if they are more capable of receiving the gift of good moments sooner than humans, who are encumbered with more complex grief.

I have one more thing to say about all this. Since I believe God experienced the beginnings and endings of those babies, frolicking with them in their brief in-utero lives, I also believe God experienced Clara's pain and suffering in her body with her. The One who called her into being and holds her together, touches her body from the inside and moves it toward healing even now. God experienced my stomach knots and sense of inadequacy and sorrow from the inside--right--there. God felt what it was like to be Clara, Clara's babies, and Lisa in those shared moments. Perhaps the close proximity of the Divine opened a way for something of God to touch my grief through Clara, and something of God to touch Clara's grief through me. It could be so.



This is so beautiful and tender Lisa. You writing always takes me to a contemplative place that I do not regularly live in. Thank you.


Feb 26, 2021

Powerful. Could I have permission to republish it in the Wayside newsletter one of these days?

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