Wednesday, July 25, 2018

The singular silence of mystery

Secret door. davefayram/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

My husband's grandfather laid gaunt on the loaner hospital bed, immobile, toothless, eyes unfocused and expression blank.

Meanwhile our baby discoed within me, all perpetual and exploratory motion, growing by the hour, eyes and teeth and muscle knitting together.

One human was inching its way toward full humanity; the other, slowly relinquishing his grip on it. Both were absolutely silent, but not the kind of restorative stillness that a drizzly afternoon or a solemn cathedral offer. This silence deafened all who were keeping vigil, because in it we recognized how much we rely on language to reveal our reality.

In our midst were two beings experiencing profound and mysterious change, yet neither could communicate the full force of their transitions. Those of us in the known state -- the long liminality of existence -- could only sit and wonder what was going through our loved ones' minds. Were they restful or suffering? Comforted or scared? Peaceful or resistant? In one of life's cruelest tricks, we will never know, because we don't remember life before birth and we don't learn about death until we die.

Or maybe the trick is not cruel. Maybe it's intentional, these frustrating bookends of amnesia and incomprehension. Maybe we are kept from grasping it because to be endowed with full understanding from day one might spoil the fruits of the lifelong pursuit. Maybe questioning and pondering are the real design. And maybe that's why our very young are mute and our very old are struck dumb -- to preserve the mystery's integrity.

My husband's grandfather now rests in the ground, and our baby continues to swim and stretch, and neither one is spilling secrets. As it should be. Our time for revelation has not come.


Prayer #325: Secret Passage

Where you come from, I cannot meet you.

Where you head toward, I cannot follow.

I can only lean against the door
and listen for your knock,
the anticipated signal
that I am ready to explore

the cozy garret
the sunlit hall
the windswept field
the soothing lullaby
the dripping peach
the nubbly sweater
the under-bed dark
the new punctuation
the curious question
the longed-for answer

that sits beyond.

Amen.