My mom looked off for just a moment, as if some story had always been near to her and seemingly always there after all these years. As she recalled the events, the colors of the room went dull and her words became crisp and vivid. “There was that one time.” She started, as if every revolutionary story need be told once to be remembered. “It was Christmas Eve night and an older couple came into the hospital with the mother about to give birth—oh, I remember how excited they were; this was their first child, I think. Well, as what comes with older couples, there is complications with birth. So, as it turned out, the child was delivered but it was born anencephalic; meaning, the baby was born without parts of its brain and its skull. You could almost think of the baby as a water balloon head. It was a certain guarantee that the child wouldn’t live. The father nearly fainted, well, he did faint after all, and the mother was in hysteria.”
“Well, you know me,” My mom went on. “I don’t want things to die alone. So I took it on my own to be with the poor thing before it went on in this life. I don’t know what was going through me but I just started talking to it. ‘Do you know what year it is?’ I would ask or I would tell it that the ‘the president is so and so’ and ask it ‘It’s Christmas Eve–do you know what that means?’ And, of course I kept reminding the baby how excited its parents were to be born. At some point while just I’m blabbing on with all this garbage and nonsense I looked down at the baby and its eyes, I mean, being anencephalic you can still make out a face, but its eyes looked at me in the soft way as if the baby was trying to say something like, ‘Look, lady. I really don’t care about any of those things. I will be alright. I’ll be in a better place soon enough. I’m just taking the express train through this life.’ The baby really had no complaints and seemed so reassured and peaceful as it left.”
My mom tapered off for just a moment, grinning out of remembering the astonishment. “Gosh,” she refrained. “Yeah—how strange—it was as if it was reassuring us that we didn’t need to worry. I mean it didn’t seem scared or phased at all. It came and went and, well, there was its plan. When it came time to share the news the couple—oh, gosh, you could imagine how devastated the couple was—I told them how calmly the baby left this life. But the father still coming out of his fainting spell and the mother still in hysteria, I don’t think they really heard me. But you know, months later I was at the hospital in my usual unit and I get a call from downstairs saying I had some visitors. Well, no one ever really came to visit me at work so curiously I went downstairs and found that same older couple there. They wanted to hear the story of their baby. I think they needed to hear that it wasn’t their fault or anything. And I just reminded them, reassured them, about the softness of what the baby’s eyes said to me, ‘It’s okay. I’m just taking the express train out.’ I repeated for them”
My mom finished by saying, “I don’t know what it is about small, precious creatures but they get so close to our hearts in such a memorable way. They really remind you to appreciate every little thing.” Of course, my mom was speaking out of the sadness of the recent passing of a kitten she picked up in a Lebanon, Tennessee parking lot. Claiming that the cat aged an entire life in its short, six-month life, and in that time coming so close to her heart. This may be a quick life, who knows? Maybe it is enough time—we can only hope. And anyways, how fortunate I have been to experience any life at all.
Just yesterday as I was sitting, minding the wind come in at its usual hour, I remembered this story. For some reason all day that day, I was reminded of what matters and what doesn’t. I’ve been struggling with the idea of work, what is ideal for me. Really, most any choice I capitulate to. But I’m always reminded by a time when I was younger, maybe thirteen or fourteen. I was then pretty wrapped up in the possibilities of the world but had a sense of distillation that I came into this world to heal something; I came into this world to heal myself—and that just may all there is to it. Somewhere along the line that became convoluted with the notion of teaching, farming, and poetry; of which, I would say, I do enjoy and love doing but also relate to the direction of healing and nurturing. I’m not necessarily in a rush to leave this world. But I am reminded by the baby in the story that there are many things we must be aware of and many things that necessitate a sorting if we are to get where we are going and needing in this lifetime.