Friday, January 23, 2009

The Moment of the Rose

I came across it again, the other day, on a mommy blog I sometimes visit--sad news. News of a little one, carried, expected, longed for, lost. News full of real sorrow, of prayers and virtual hugs from friends far away and real ones from friends close at hand; news of the sort that someone close has shared at least once. I am one of the lucky women who has not thus far had a miscarriage, but I know many such women, family and friends. Their grief has touched my life, and the little ones they loved and named and prayed for and sometimes buried are remembered in my heart.

Our world has a tendency to close collective eyes to such grief; it isn't politically correct to mourn the loss of what other women freely chose to kill, after all. Doctors and nurses are often cold and utilitarian, dealing with the aftermath of the death of a loved unborn family member; even when they try to be consoling, they say things that sting--reminding the mother, perhaps, to forget all about it and be glad for the children she does have, as if her grief somehow diminishes her love for these; or saying heartily that after all, she's young, she can try if the little one now gone can be "replaced" by a future sibling he or she will not know on this earth.

But even more troubling than these things are the doubts and fears that may swirl around the thoughts of those close to the situation: where is God's will, in so early a death? For what purpose does our loving and merciful Creator call into being a life that will be cut so very short? Why does He allow this?

In some way, of course, what He allows is simply nature after the Fall. We are not immortal in body, and the natural processes of fertility and conception allow for such losses to take place. Just as our bodies are prone to sickness, disease, and eventually death, so to is it possible for a life to end only moments or hours or days or weeks after it has begun, before the little one has ever seen his mother's face. To the extent that it seems cruel, it is not the Creator's cruelty; He did not design us for this, and it was because of the sin of our first parents that death entered into the world at all.

But in another way, what we struggle with is what the poet T.S. Eliot defined, when he wrote:
"The moment of the rose and the moment of the yew-tree
Are of equal duration."
Because we are physical creatures who can only perceive reality by referring to such concepts as "space" and "time," we think that the life of an unborn baby who dies in utero is unbearably, unbelievably short; we may similarly think that a person who lives past the century-mark has lingered on this earth far too long, especially if all those years have not added wisdom nor increased grace, as may sometimes happen. For the one to have only weeks while the other's life spans decades seems like a strange riddle, a puzzling paradox beyond our comprehension. Many find themselves doubting the existence of a merciful and benevolent God when they look at the question this way: why should the young and innocent perish, or the aged and (sometimes) wicked flourish?

But if we frame the question that way, we forget that reality that Eliot so beautifully expresses. We don't have years--none of us. We don't have decades or minutes or hours or even seconds in their brevity. We have only moments; we have only now.

And in God's mysterious and unfathomable eternity, the moment of the rose really is just as long as the moment of the yew tree. And the moment of the human soul is more than either of these, for these were not created for eternity, as we are. Our "now" will last forever, whether we are on this earth five weeks or ninety-five years. We who are born and live this earthly life have however much time God has set before us to learn to do His will; those called away before the hour of birth may be given a chance to do the same, for all we yet know. We know for certain that the merciful God who sent His only Son to suffer and die for every human being, no matter how small, will not abandon these precious souls, though just what happens may remain forever in this life a mystery.

It is in the great mercy and love of Almighty God that all of us find our consolation, and this is no less true for the mother who suffers the pain of the loss of a child to miscarriage. She who puts her trust in Him will not be disappointed; He will send comfort and healing, and lead her back to that joy, rooted in hope, which is the gift He gives to every Christian soul.


Anonymous said...

Ok, this is off topic, but I just wanted to stop over and say hello! I met your lovely daughters and Charlotte after Mass a couple of weeks ago when you were in the hospital.
I hope you are recovering well, you have been in my prayers!
Thank you for such a wonderful, eye-opening blog. I love coming over here!

Erin Manning said...

I'm so sorry I missed meeting you! I appreciate all the prayers--it looks like I'm fine, and that my high blood pressure was the culprit. Glad you like the blog--thanks! :)

eutychus said...


KC said...

That was beautiful. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Sort of on the topic...I have never had a miscarriage, that we know of. But recently, we have had one family member and one at church that have had miscarriages well into the 2nd trimester.
I pray everything is OK, heath wise, with everyone. This just seemed really odd and disturbing.

Melanie Bettinelli said...

Thank you this is beautiful. Eliot is my favorite poet and I do love those lines from The Four Quartets. I had a miscarriage last year and am so glad I have had the consolation of my faith to give me comfort and hope.

ROSIE said...

I have six precious little ones with the Lord, and four (ages 14 down to 4) walking this earth. As much as I have grieved the loss of the first six, I often think: "They have only known life in my womb and in God's arms. They have never known sadness, sin, illness, pain, deceit, or the discomfort of a wet diaper. They have known only love, and have given only joy. As much as I wish I could hold them in my arms, I am grateful their lives were such glorious ones."