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i would rather be in it
proximity to life means proximity to death
We tried to save the baby snake, the kids and I. But the chicken was too quick, too committed; darting this way and that, always just out of our reach, the little live shoestring dangling from her beak.
We tried to save the baby bird, the kids and I. But the chicken was too quick, too committed; darting this way and that, always just out of our reach, the little live fledgling draining away in her beak.
Twice in as many days the food chain had broken our hearts, and there was nothing for it but to find some semblance of acceptance. Easier said than done for a person with only a handful of years of perspective to draw from. He was crushed.
“Why do sad things only happen at our house?”
Oh, my darling. I drew him in, nestled his browned limbs atop the folds of my crossed legs in the grass. Smelled the sunlight in his hair, admired the dirt in his fingernails. Ached for the wildness he would one day lose.
“We get to live here,” I motioned to the prairie sprawling before us, “in nature. Near so much life. But being near life means being near death too, because they always have to go together.” Life is just that way, I soothed. All we can do is bear witness.
I do this with my children, just like every parent has done since time immemorial: I tell them in part, but not in full. I don’t tell my son that other houses have their own sadness, some much more tragic than ours. I don’t tell him that some houses bury people, not birds. I don’t tell him that some victims are children, not snakes. I don’t tell him that just one state over, my friend’s house holds IVs and vomit and clumps of hair. I don’t tell him that life will one day break him too — some how, some way — or that the knowledge of the inevitability of that breakage brings me to my knees even now.
I don’t tell him more than he needs to know; the little sadnesses of the everyday are plenty big for his still-tiny heart. But his question lingers in the air, and I tuck the truth of it into my own body and pray for the Spirit to be merciful. To let the sad things find him — and me, and us — slowly, tenderly. But I know that proximity to life always means proximity to death, metaphorical or otherwise. The only way to keep the sad things out of your house is to keep all things out of your house, and that is a bargain I hope we are never willing to make.
My favorite line in the movie Girl, Interrupted is near the end, when one troubled character realizes that despite the horrors of the world, many of which she’s seen firsthand, she doesn’t want to remove herself from it. “I would rather be in it,” she grits emphatically to a fellow sufferer resigned to a hellscape of isolation. “I would rather be f-ng in it than down here with you.”
My children know life, know the difference between the prints of a doe and those of a raccoon, between the scat of a coyote and that of our dog. My children too know death, know the look of it; the smell. They know that a creature’s lifespan doesn’t exactly end when we bury it, but becomes dirt, then flowers, then seed. They know death is not final in this way. The sadness is always met by the life, again and again and again.
And so my prayer for them, for me, for you, is that we would say, “I would rather be in it.”
I popped up in several places around the web this week. Here’s where you can find me:
I had the honor of getting to deliver this Sunday’s homily for Catholic Women Preach, an organization that has meant a great deal to me personally over the last five years. If you aren’t already familiar with their work, I highly recommend following this ministry of Future Church.
Last Sunday, I wrote a brief reflection on the day’s readings for Ignatian Solidarity Network (yet another fantastic Catholic organization doing good + holy justice work). I couldn’t help but think of my LGBTQ+ friends when I read the Scriptures, so that’s what I centered my reflection on. Shoutout to the lone commenter so far, who hated it. Good times, good times.
Tune in for a convo between myself and a good friend as we chat all things Feminist Prayers on the AMDG Jesuit Podcast. In this episode we discuss things like: What would the Psalms have sounded like if they’d been written by women? What life experiences do we need to better integrate in our prayer? What images of God do we need now to better deepen our relationship with our Creator?
And over on Instagram lots of folks resonated with this post. For some it was because of the touching on differentiation in marriage, but for most it was the (new-to-me) spiritual practice I described.
Speaking of Instagram, I jumped on the Threads bandwagon. So far I like it less than Instagram proper but more than Twitter, which is reason enough to stay for now. You can find me there if it sounds fun.
Wishing y’all a sunny and warm week ahead!