photo by Neal.
All I ever gave her was a name.
The most beautiful thing I have ever done was to name the girl for Light and Peace. Lucia is the light. Paz is the peace. She is the light and the dark. The peace and the war. I named her long before she became who she ended up becoming. What I mean is that I named her long before she died. I named this child metaphorically. Metaphorically only if she were dead.
All I ever gave her was a name.
But what she gave me was infinite. The understanding of unconditional love, of absence, of suffering, of impermanence, of fear. (Fuck, I was afraid after she died. I was afraid of being alone and being with others.) She gave me an understanding of without. She gave me the whole of the abyss. I didn't smile when I saw her. I didn't laugh because she was here. I found her birth beautiful, but it didn't erase the horror of her death. I wish I could have at least given her the sound of joy once.
I gave her some kisses, tears. I gave her an urn. A place on the shelf in the secretary. It sits in front of all my books about God. Those things seem the least I could do, the very least.
I gave her part of my wrist. I wrote her name across it--the name I gave to her. When I tattooed it on me, I took her name back. All I gave her, I now have--the blood, the tears, the urn, the name. It was her second birthday, and I didn't know what to do anymore. I wanted her on me, in me again, blood pulsing through her little beautiful body, so I wrote her name on the inside of my wrist. The blood rushed to the spot when she removed the needles and ink. Her name written in black in a cloud of inflamed skin. With her name tattooed on me, I can always possess the only part of her I gave her. I can always send my blood to her again. When I squint my eyes, her name looks like Sanskrit, or clothes hanging on a line. Like hieroglyphics that show little symbols of grief and heartbreak and undying love.
After her name, and before it, I made two dots. She is in the middle. Two breaths. Two pauses. Not the end of my story, not the beginning, somewhere in the middle that seems like a beginning and an ending. Three years ago today, she died. Three years ago tomorrow, she was born. Even though I have integrated her death into our family, into my being, into my body, the fact catches me up. She died. Forever.
I take comfort in the physics of it. Everyone dies. This is not about me, or my family. Then I get all caught up in the metaphysics of her death. I want her back, and science won't give her to me. My four year old daughter explains to me that TracyOC's four year old daughter C. believes that when sisters die, they go into the sky. Beezus believes that when sisters die, they go into trees. I imagine in another place that weekend Tracy and I were talking about the same thing.
I don't know what I believe anymore. She is gone. Last year the moon was full, and eclipsed on her death day. The night felt magical and important, like Nature herself was reminding me of the mysteries I will never understand. Like the mystery of her death, and her life, and her holiness. In those mysteries can be a beauty, a light, and something resembling peace. There was a sense of connection in it, the death and the eclipse and the full moon and the winter. This year, I feel numb, quiet, and confused. The wind whistles through the eaves of our house, makes it sound like footsteps on the back stairs. It is solstice. It is cold and dark. It is a new moon. Total blackness. The Earth has not yet given birth to the Sun. And if she does, will the child be a dying star? A supernova in our bellies?
A shooting star across our lives, and then she is gone. Poof. Make a wish.
In the first year, I tried desperately to transform my grief into a kind of joy about her. That never worked. I could only transform it into a kind of reverence for her, a kind of worship of her holiness. I would whisper her name. Lucia Paz. She is a holiest being I know because she never spoke, or breathed, or prayed, or harmed another living soul. She just died. And in death there is a peace, maybe even a light. She was pure love given. Pure love received.
All I gave her was a name and it was someone else's name. A saint whose eyes were plucked out for being too beautiful for a celibate. When they plucked her eyes out, God made more beautiful eyes grow back in their place. I bake Sankta Lucia buns with saffron and think about her eyes. The skin on her eyelids were torn and bruised, and I had to lift them gently to see the color. Her eyes looked dead.
We are only making them for her.
The saffron buns, I mean. She doesn't eat them. She is dead. So they stale and mold over. I mourn the buns. Sankta Lucia is celebrated on one of the darkest days of the year. Candles are lit and a little girl wears a white dress and a crown of candles. She sings a haunting song about light and peace. We remember our Lucia on the darkest day of our year. It is so dark, it never seems like day at all, just an twenty-four hour cloak of darkness over our family. The saint's eyes were plucked from her skull, like my daughter was plucked from my womb. She didn't grow back. She floated away into the night sky and became something else, maybe a tree, or perhaps nothing.
I sit outside tonight. With ice lanterns and cocoa, I wait for the Earth to give birth to the Sun. I wait to give birth to her. My tears freeze into long icicles, hanging in front of dawn. Eternally winter solstice in my heart, eternally the darkest day. I will whisper her name to the trees, the sky, to the nothing I feel inside me. She will not come, but perhaps the waiting is the important part.
Tell me about your child's name. How did you choose it? What does it mean? Did the name change after your child died? Did the meaning change after your child(ren)'s death? Was it symbolic? Do you have any rituals or yearly practices that revolve around your child's name?