23 May 2010


Have you ever held a butterfly in your hand?

Have you ever touched its wings only to discover that they can break or tear with just the slightest tapping.

I am that fragile.

If you were to hold me in your hands, if you were to touch me, I may just crack for you. I might just fall to pieces.

Today, I was tested for explosives at the airport. I was in line, waiting for my flight, minding my own business, watching a group of Thai people in front of me get their passports checked. And then as I was walking forward with my own boarding pass and driver's license, a security guard appeared out of nowhere and said, "Please follow me, ma'am."

She then proceeded to wipe down my hands with a cloth, run the cloth through a machine. She placed my hands on some kind of scanner. She took my license and ran that through something and then felt me up and down.

"Do you mind if I ask what you are doing?" I asked.

"Testing you for explosives," she said with a smile as if I'd just asked her what she was watching on tv, and she had answered, "Dora the Explorer, of course."

I spent the next 30 minutes trying to figure out if I was just a random person in line chosen to be tested or if I was looking and acting in some suspicious manner.

And then for a moment, I thought, the security guards at the airport can see inside my head! Of course I'm being tested for explosives. They are looking in my head, and they can see what's going on. They can see that I am filled with explosives.

My head is certainly about to explode. My head is certainly ready to blow up. My head is certainly filled with explosives.

What if we could see inside of a person's head, inside her brain? Are there so many faces we wear that we would be surprised by what we really saw inside of each other?

There are some parents who come to our support group who know before their babies die, that their babies are going to die. They come because they know that the baby growing inside of them is going to die. And I can't for the life of me really know what that must be like. To have the knowledge ahead of time that the baby you are carrying will die. There is something beautiful about the way they are able to prepare, to say goodbye, to hold on to what they will not have for long.

If I could go back and hold on to what I would not have for long, I would.

If I could go back in time, there are words that I've spoken that I would take away from my mouth.

If I could go back in time, there are moments when I would pause longer before I speak, I would pause before I take a breath, I would pause before I ... Can you finish that sentence with me? What would you pause before doing?

I would let the butterfly land on my hand and with its own legs, I would let it sit still. I would resist the urge to touch her wings and instead, I would watch in awe at the intricacies of her wings, of the colors and patterns and way in which her wings flap back and forth slowly as if testing her stability.

If I could, I would pause the world right now, to see who else out there feels at least this broken, this fragile, this unsure of whether or not I should take off and fly or try to find my cocoon to burrow back into?

When you have set before you two choices--to walk or run--to stay or go--to grieve or forget--what would you choose? It is easy for me to choose grieving over forgetting. That one is not really a choice at all. But the other two confound me.

What if everything I thought I knew about grief, about death, about choosing wasn't true at all.

For an infant, it is easy. You choose the mother, you choose the breast, you choose the one that sustains you and fills your tummy.

But as we grow older, as we turn from the caterpillar into the butterfly, the choices are not always so clear.

And for the baby who never takes a breath outside of the womb, the choice no longer lies in the ability to choose the cocoon over the butterfly. The choice then is left up to the parents to figure out how in the world they choose to live the rest of their lives.

And therein lies our fragility. The world no longer makes sense. The world no longer moves in an orderly fashion.

The world took the butterfly first and left the cocoon behind.

1 comment:

Barbara said...

Sarah, I hesitate to say that I can relate because I have never experienced your pain, but I do feel fragile and an x-ray would certainly reveal explosives in my brain. I think we are all terribly fragile. I saw a show on PBS with this mini-fact about butterflies: their wings are actually transparent; it is the dust-like scales that give them their pattern and color. Just dust-like scales.