There is a little girl in my arm’s length sphere who has been dying for nearly a year of a brain tumour. Her name is Stella; I don’t know her, though I know her grandmother, and I’ve been following the blog her mothers have written of this time-beyond-all-we-can handle.
They’re stunningly good writers, stunningly honest about confronting loss in watching one’s tiny miraculous child’s body shut down cell by cell. I have nothing to offer them, really, but have been reading and commenting because something in me says it’s important to bear witness, to honour their experience by quietly acknowledging it. It’s nearly unbearable to read about — the tiniest of inklings about what it must be like to live with it for months and months and months, saying goodbye in thousands of minutes.
One of the things that’s struck me over the year is the choices made by Grace, Stella’s cousin. Close in age, they were peers a year ago. Grace has grown in that time, while Stella has gone backwards. And now, Stella’s parents write sentences like this: At 2pm Stella fell into a deep sleep and was woken up at 5:30pm to Gracie kissing her cheeks. Gracie and Stella cuddled in bed for awhile and Gracie read Stella a storybook.
The photographs show a pragmatically present tiny girl holding her limp cousin’s hand, loving her.
One of the concepts Barnett and Kim crafted to describe spaces where we see life at its most breathtaking, profound, connecting, is “moments of grace.” Those moments where we see a kind of capital-M Mystery, something more powerful and good that seems beyond familiar human capacity. I keep looking at the images of this little girl, grace personified, reminding me of how to be present.