The candles cast shadow light on the faces around the table, smoothed over with Christmas music and plenty of red wine—the babies lured into dreamy stares by the steady rhythm of conversation, the clinking of glasses. The question—what was your favorite part of this Christmas; the answers—stockings, the breakfast, watching Laura open her Kitchen Aid. And out of the blue, my dad answered this: my favorite part was standing in church and looking down the row, where all my children stood with their spouses worshipping the same God.
Again I wonder why, of all the people and all the places and all the eras in history, my life is here, linked to these people, in mother-daughter-sister-spouse ways, and if that will have an imprint on who we are, eternally. I find myself thinking about this and wondering about it more and more the older June gets, the more she transitions from a newborn into a baby with a personality, preferences, and a sense of humor. Why is it, that of all the mother-daughter pairs in all of time, June and I are paired together? What is it that we’ll learn from each other?
When June gets fussy or upset, I hold her to my chest. I shhh her in her ear, and I rock her until that neck, which is getting stronger but still so loosely controlled, finally relaxes onto my shoulder. She breathes out and I breathe in, inhaling that baby smell and running my fingers over those softs tufts of hair. I know it will not always be appropriate to comfort her this way—that someday she will be too big to hold, she will not need to be rocked, I will not be able to whisper shhh in her ear until whatever is bothering her melts away. She won’t remember being loved this way or held this way, so maybe I am doing this for my grown-up daughter, my teenage daughter, my broken-hearted daughter, my tough decision making daughter. Maybe I am soothing her now for all the storms she will walk through—maybe I am trying to assure her and comfort her in all of these physical ways so that even when she is too big for this, she knows at an instinctive, reflexive level that she is loved.
With June’s birth came the loss and and heartache of some dear friends— death, miscarriage, still birth, grief. If being a mother has taught me anything so far, it is that the veil from here to there, now to eternity, is very thin. June was not and then she was. She kicked and grew inside of me for nine short months and then out of me came an eternal soul sewn up and packaged into a tiny, temporary body that will one day expire, but June, my darling girl inside this skin, never will.
Among the pile of generous meals and gifts sent to us in those October days, some wonderful friends sent us a book called Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing. We read it to June every night before bed. A few nights ago, we read about birthdays, and how for Christians, there are three—the day you are born, the day you become a Christian, the day Jesus carries you through death into life forever. Where June came from—the place she was so intimately knit and sewn up, is not so far away from this world. I think of the joy it brought my dad at Christmas to know each of his children worship his God, that Jesus will one day carry every one of his children and their spouse into life eternal—and, having tasted and seen that the Lord is good myself, I can think of no prayer or hope more fervent for my own daughter.
I know it will be challenging, to explain the love of Jesus to my daughter in a world where one definite answer is considered close-minded, where tolerance takes precedence over truth, where truth is derived through feeling rather than fact. It would be far easier to tell her that there is no universal truth, that her opinion and personal preference is the ultimate compass, that her world should be built and put together only by the way she sees it. It would be easier, yes, but far less loving. And so instead, when she becomes too big to shhh, I will whisper in her ear the beginnings of the unfathomable mysteries of Christ’s love. When I cannot rock her I will teach her the old, well worn words: On Christ the Solid Rock I stand, All other ground is sinking sand. I will tell her about her birth, about how close it felt to touching the eternal, about the Immortal God humble and loving enough to enter life the same way she did, about how one day we will step into the eternal, about Jesus, who will carry us through it all.
It is my desperate hope, as I rock and coo at and carry my daughter, that one day, when she is far too big for all of this, when she has babies and dreams and accomplishments of her own, we will stand in a church pew at Christmas, worshipping the same God, catching a glimpse of all that is to come.