For Rowan, who just crossed over to the firmament, and was Marian's knight in shining armor and a true romantic.
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There was a moment when I didn’t think I was going to make it. And yet my mom was the one who was dying. Literally. Of cancer. Every few hours she had to leave her post at my side, where she was the self-designated brow-mopper, ice giver, and comfort-whisperer, to step into the hallway and give herself another morphine shot. I was so exhausted I felt like one more push did not exist. But somehow, from somewhere, came another -- and another. It had been 23 hours of hard labor. The doctor -- a good coach -- kept saying, “Yes, Yes, YES! I can see his head!” and then, “You can have this baby with the next contraction.” One more bearing down with all the strength I could muster, and out came the shoulders -- and then the whole baby, turning, slipping, sliding easily into Dr. Growdon’s capable hands.
He cleaned up the baby and clamped the umbilical cord, and handed Jeff the scissors to make the official cut. Then he laid him in his mother’s arms. My arms. “First kiss” he said. [Oh, is THAT what I’m supposed to do now? Good thing he told me, because I was already halfway to another planet.] But then it became real to me. I looked at him, how perfect he was (too perfect to be MINE), and held him swaddled next to me. I marveled at his eyes. But when my lips touched his forehead something magic happened. I felt this exhilarating connection that brought me back to life, and I knew he was mine. Forever.
This baby -- hers, mine, ours, all of ours -- was the firstborn. My mom felt a unique bond with him because throughout the pregnancy they shared something few people ever experience -- a closeness to the veil. She was approaching it in departure; he was on the other side approaching his arrival. Their bond seemed somehow intimate, holy. She wrote in her journal that day “What an incredible experience to get this little boy from safe inside his mother’s womb to being a part of the human beings struggling with the pains and joys of this world.” I like to think she saw herself mirroring that sometime soon...leaving the pains and the joys of this world to find herself safe and at peace in the firmament.
A few months later I got the call. She was in the hospital, two states away, and her days were numbered. Baby Josh and I boarded the next flight out, and rode straight from the airport to the hospital. Mom was still alive, but she couldn’t eat or talk, and practically couldn’t see. Most of the time she just lay there, unresponsive. I carried Joshua over to her bedside and told her who was there to see her. Then I held him up to give her a kiss. I think it took all the energy she had just to pull her lips into a pucker, but then his lips touched hers, and she smiled! That first kiss from her first grandson had suddenly brought her visible joy!
That first kiss was also the last. She passed away the next day. (Another amazing story, which I’ll save for another post.) But we continued to tell little Joshy the story about how his kisses were magic, and how he brought his grandmother so much happiness before she died.
Three years later we had a baby girl, Jordan. She came from heaven like a ray of hope and graced our home with her presence. (Still does.) One day she seemed to be crying inconsolably and I had my hands full in the kitchen. Josh said, “I can help her Mommy. My kisses are magic!” And earnestly, he went over and kissed his baby sister. Magically, she stopped crying and smiled up at him. His kisses really were magic! It didn’t always work, but more often than not he had this spell on her. “Joshy,” we’d say, “Baby Jordan’s getting fussy. Can you give her some magic kisses?” And off he’d go, with healing and happiness trailing in his wake.
Josh is now 16. He’s just on the threshold of adulthood, entering the dangerous world of dating and driving and derring-do. I know that someday soon some lucky girl will be the recipient of his official "first kiss". (Maybe it’s already happened.) This young man already has a kissing history that’s unparalleled. Yet so innocent. Whoever the lucky girl is, I hope that first kiss is a symbol of genuine affection. And I hope she can sense the absolute magic in it. Because it’s for real.
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This post is also an entry in Scribbit's Write-Away contest for August: "First Kiss". Welcome, Scribbit readers.