Monday, October 06, 2008

A goodbye letter to somebody I never knew.

My sister-in-law miscarried this weekend. She hadn't been pregnant long, weeks at most. The baby was due July 5th. I found tears when my brother told me the news this morning. Strange. I never knew it nor will I, but the grief is real.

I couldn’t wait to become an uncle (or as my family says in their French way, Oncle). I was gonna be the Auntie Mame of uncles. I don’t even have a name or gender for what was coming, I just call it “it.” And still, I saw myself introducing it to the great joys of life I’ve discovered over the years: live boxing matches, going to the opera, the great masters of painting and sculpting. I know that there will be another, whether it comes to my family through adoption or is blood related. But I still need to say goodbye to this one.

When I heard that my brother’s wife was pregnant, I wrote a letter to It. Here’s that letter followed by the second letter.

Dear Baby X,
Jason just called to tell me that you were expected in early July. It’s the end of September right now; you’ve got plenty of time. Over the next nine months I’m sure you’ll be hearing plenty about those in the world before you. I imagine it will sound pretty garbled through the amniotic fluid.
I wanted to take a moment to introduce myself before you’re swept away in a flood of cradling arms of aunts, grandmothers, and great-grandmothers. I’m you’re uncle on your dad’s side. Despite how different we are, Jason and I are in fact brothers.
From what I understand about pregnancy, you’re essentially a cytoblast right now, a tiny nucleus of cells. I don’t want to overwhelm you with new information. Be well.
Oncle Joseph

Dear Baby X,
Jason just called to tell me that you are no longer expected. It’s the beginning of October right now, and the leaves are at their peak. Beauty is everywhere. I’m sorry you won’t be able to enjoy them next year.
One of the things you would have found out about me as you grew up was that unlike your parents and grandparents, I’m not a Catholic. If fact, I’m atheist. I think this would have annoyed you very much as a young person.
I don’t have the comfort of believing that you are in heaven right now. But I hope that the cluster of cells you were experienced the vibrations of your mother’s laughter or your father hugging her. If some nucleus that was working on bringing you to life somehow perceived the love those two felt for each other and you, than you experienced everything beautiful about life. Good bye.
Oncle Joseph

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