What can I say to her? No Gabriel, I drive under an arch of trees dead in late winter and down a rock-graveled driveway littered with riding toys but still too quiet. Wanting a cigarette and the flowers that I forgot, I ring the doorbell and am admitted empty-handed and still without words that I have been trying to frame all morning unsuccessfully. When her baby died, I chopped vegetables for soup which I never sent because I could not write a message of condolence.
What brings me here now? I barely know her, and I have tall, vibrant daughters to her tiny, white-shrouded ghost. What can I know of her pain? My pregnancies were a natural progression to me inconveniently timed. I trusted the clear instructions on medical texts and didn’t think to pray for a safe delivery. Every day of her parturition she breathed a childish prayer. But, four months into the pregnancy, the doctor said there was not hope. She walked out of his diagnosis to wait listening to an instruction not framed in reason or words. Bending in submission, she bore a fragile life to challenge dictionary definitions, our limited vocabulary. I heard she dressed her own child for burial, and I wept thinking of her strength.
But how can I tell her this or that, at the darkest hour of last night, I woke for no reason unable to forget and go back to sleep? I stand still, silent and awkward in her living room wanting to offer her words I cannot remember, and she does not need. Nonetheless, respectful of visitors who would speak of what cannot be said, she waits with seemingly endless patience for me to find my voice. Against the cushions, her body is still the familiar, swollen shape of new motherhood. But, in her face, I see a terrible grace which, like a gift, suddenly moves me to remember a childhood refrain, whisper: Blessed Art Thou Among Women.