I was watching television tonight, and the ad for the chimps, the one about the Jane Goodall(?) rescue organization came on, and I made Mr. Spit turn the channel. It breaks my heart to see them. To see starving children, to see broken and abused people. I cannot watch the television news about Haiti, and yet I cannot do anything but watch.
I sent my money to the Red Cross, adding it on top of the contributions we make to other organizations. I can do that, and I can force myself to watch. To keep my eyes open and stare straight ahead, when I would rather keep my eyes closed, avert my gaze.
I ordered a book from Amazon and it arrived on Tuesday. It sits on my coffee table, open to about page 46. The book is about the death of a child, and it promises to offer certain theological proof that dead babies go to heaven. I find myself, even as I am reading the book, a bit perplexed. Where on earth would dead babies go, if not to heaven? I never gave it any thought with Gabriel, it simply does not occur to me that he would be anywhere else than heaven. His baptism was a ritual that was precious to me, the thing and the whole of the thing, but not at all essential to heaven. It was a panacea, this holding up of ritual against the tide of sorrow, but it was in no way essential, it was as meaningless in the cause of salvation as it was at holding off sorrow.
But, theological promises are not the reason I have stopped reading the book. It is the premise that parents ought not to grieve their dead children, because those children are in heaven. Why worry the book seems to say. Why be concerned? Your child is in a better place, bypassing the peril of this mortal coil.
Can I say that it is a relief at least, to hear a Christian say what I so often feel they are thinking? I imagine that Christians look at Mr. Spit and I, who still so desperately miss our son, and want to pry him away from the everlasting arms of Jesus, and hold him in our own; I would imagine that they look at us and call our faith weak, call us unable to trust, suggest that our faith, our priorities are out of order. It is at least a relief to see these words in black and white, where I can weigh and measure them.
I have been watching Glo and a few others struggle, and it breaks my heart. It seems no different than watching news of devastation, watching chimpanzee’s in steel traps, women on freezing cold street corners. I can’t do anything. I can’t make our churches places for the broken, I can’t change attitudes, I can’t do much of anything.
But look. But watch. But stare evenly ahead, not turning my head away.
For something so simple, so small, so pathetically useless, would someone please tell me why in the hell it is so hard?