John D. Ritchie
They say the pain of natural childbirth is the worst any healthy woman ever has to endure and on a purely physical level that is probably true. But then again it is probably equally true that that assessment was made by a man. Unless you have experienced childbirth you cannot possibly know what it is like. Nor can any man comprehend the emotional roller coaster that surrounds the experience. A mad ride that hurtles from the uttermost highs to the nethermost lows in the blink of an eye and dumps you, sick and exhausted in a strange land where another being reigns supreme. A tiny person that you love unconditionally and for whom you joyfully turn night into day and deny that sleep ever existed.
Then, just when you think you have experienced every possible emotional twist and turn, every rise and fall of the roller coaster you are thrown from the ride and plummet helplessly down towards a horror beyond your most awful imaginings. They told me my baby had incurable genetic abnormalities and would probably not live to see her teens.
They were right. My darling Dorothy died in my arms one warm spring night just days after her ninth birthday. I truly believed nothing could hurt worse than the loss of my beautiful child. Then Dorothy's friend Cassie came calling.
"She's gone to Jesus, ain't she?" Those words from a child's simple perception set my pain on fire. So fierce was the heat my body crumpled and twisted, dropping to the ground like molten candle wax. Any other child would have left then. Would have run home to hide her freckled face in her mother's skirt and there bury her confusion and guilt. But Cassie was neither confused nor guilty. She knew precisely what she had done and precisely why she had done it.
Momma says. "Grief is like anger, it's a demon eating your soul. You gotta cast it out and stomp it good."
Cassie sat beside me, as I lay in the dust of my yard, and gently stroked my hair.
"Dorothy was the most lovefull person I ever knowed. She loved everyone and everything, even the little bitty bugs."
Just before dark Cassie's mother came looking for her and found us there on the ground. I lay on my side; a dessicated husk. Every last tear wrung out of me, every last sob, cried into the hard, grey earth. I was as empty as a Halloween lantern with just the barest glow of life flickering in my eyes. As her mother knelt down and took my hand, Cassie took her thumb from her mouth and said "She stomped her demon real good, Momma."
First published: February, 2007
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