a long trip

So few grains of happiness
measured against all the dark
and still the scales balance.

The world asks of us
only the strength we have and we give it.
Then it asks more, and we give it. 

Jane Hirshfield
(from “The Weighing”)

We weren’t good friends.

I didn’t even know her birthday, and I’m sure she didn’t know mine either. We had Teapot’s dad in common – they had played sports together. Our maternity leaves overlapped – Teapot was born in December, and her baby A was born in February, and Teapot’s dad, ever concerned that I didn’t have any mommy friends, said that we should go out, here’s her number, you should give her a call sometime.

We texted.

I commented about a trip she had taken with her daughter and husband and she replied with travel tips and recommendations. Soon we were messaging each other every few days. We swapped war stories of nursing and sleepless nights. We commiserated during sleep regressions. Celebrated baby milestones. We talked about poop and boobs. Sometimes we even got together in person – sometimes with mutual friends, and once, just the two of us. She and her daughter were the first people to visit us in our new apartment, fearlessly making the trek across the city on the train. Our last messages were about our babies (what else) – I had asked her if her daughter had started shrieking yet, as Teapot had just discovered this new ability; she had replied yes! All the time! I had missed her daughter’s birthday party (but Teapot and her dad had gone) and she sent me a photo of all the babies and their moms lined up in a row; Teapot’s dad had not wanted to be in the photo, so she had carried Teapot and her own daughter in her lap. My last words to her were, “Adorable!” That was February 15.

Then she died.

She was, truly, one of the most genuine and kind people I have ever known. Through all of the challenges that motherhood threw at her, she was always strong and brave and full of grace. Maybe she was afraid sometimes (because she was human) but she never let fear get in the way of being there for family. I miss her a lot. Sometimes I think of something that I’d like to share with her and I have to remember that she’s not there. I feel like I got punched in the stomach, that I can’t possibly cry any more (and then I do); I can’t imagine how her family must feel, how profoundly they must miss her and how keen her absence must be.

She is gone.

Teapot’s dad often tells me that he processes a person’s death by telling himself that he or she has just gone on a journey. A long trip, perhaps abroad to some exotic country, where communication is sketchy. It will be a while before he sees this person again, but perhaps one day in the future they will reconnect. So until then.

Life, as we know it now, goes on.

Baby A probably won’t have any memories of her mom. But I think (I believe – I have to believe this is true) that she will know her, because all the love that her mom had for her lives on. In her daughter, in her husband, in her family, in her friends. And that’s a lot of love.


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