Sunday, February 1, 2015

Remembering her

Today, my daughter Amalia who died several days after being born because of complications associated with a breech birth, would be turning seven.

Over the years, I have made peace with this. As much peace as anyone who has lost a child can make. I only knew her for eight days--the eight days that she lived--which means I never got to know her. She struggled to breathe that entire time. My sister and I sang to her in the hopes of bringing her back or at least softening the cold, impersonal hospital environment. From the beginning I told Amalia that I am okay with whatever her spirit decides. I would love for her to stay here on Earth, but if she needs to go, I need to be okay with that.

The hard part now is being asked how many kids I have or which one my current pregnancy is in order. I loathe that question. It reminds me that in this society there really is no tolerance for ambiguity, no accounting for stories of death, loss and tragedy in everyday discourse. My son always counts his first baby sister when people ask him how many siblings he has. He also counts his step-sisters and their siblings. He makes it sound like our family is huge!

I don't talk about Amalia much these days, but she is always with me. When her dad and I buried her ashes in a river next to which we got married, we noticed it was full of heart-shaped stones. After losing her, I used to see hearts everywhere-- in the sand by the ocean, on the pavement, carved into tree trunks. I still see hearts, though less frequently now. To me, the hearts are little messages from Amalia.

Here is a poem I wrote about my brief encounter with her:

Each thought of her
an invitation
to cross
the bridge over the river,
an arch over an abyss,
a concrete thread over
the ashes of my daughter: ivory
and turquoise, glistening in the stream,
swaying against
heart-shaped rocks,
inching their way slowly
towards the Columbia, the Pacific.

My girl in the river.
Her dust swallowed up among the fish,
the moss, the grasses, and sticks,
the water insects, when close up, bigger
than the valley hem made of jagged mountain peaks.

My girl in the river and the sky.
The river's name, the Seeker.
Her name, Hard Work.
Hard work to stay alive.

We sang to lure her back,
--mama a teta, two sister-mermaids--
songs to bring her home,
summoning the onion sellers, the shepherds,
the dove, the cat, the dog
to help whisk her
away from machines that beeped,
strangers in scrubs, tubes penetrating wrists.
Home to a wash of chamomile,
warm cotton,
skin on skin.

Grief mutes,
but I speak to her
greeting her there on that bridge
as fast as one breath in and out
over the water-filled wound in the earth,
warm vapor rising.

Amalia: deep down in the water,
burnt bones. Such beautiful burnt bones. 

Originally posted here where I blogged about Amalia before.

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