Life and Death - a personal journey

 In the past few days I have been present when my grandson Caleb died and my granddaughter Lily was born. Now I know through personal experience that our entrance and exit from this stage called life is sacred - a holy baptism of raw pain and transforming joy.


I watch as the monitors in the hospital room flash Caleb’s vital signs.
Glowing numbers appear and disappear - lower and slower.

The lights go out.

“Don’t leave me,” Mathew sobs while he holds his dead brother in his arms. “You’re my best friend.”

Can’t hold on to life.
Can’t protect my loved ones from this exquisite pain.

“Oh God, please help us.”

All we can do is cling to each other.

Grief – a giant wave washes over us – we can’t breathe.

Cold and trembling on the shore.

I see my daughter’s eyes.

Another wave.

“It was such a privilege to be your mother,” April whispers gently kissing Caleb and pulling a soft yellow blanket around his shoulders.

Another wave.

Holding Mitchell’s tiny hand while we walk from the hospital.

“I wish Caleb could come alive again,” Mitchell says.

“Me too,” I answer.


My daughter Ashley calls in the night.

“Mom, my water just broke. Can you be with me?”

Another wave.

Hospital again.

Monitor flashes Ashley’s vital signs.
Labor contractions crest and fall.
Minutes tick by as the waves gradually get closer and closer,
the pain - stronger and stronger until she can bear it no longer.

Ashley cries out in pain.

Another wave.

I cannot protect my loved one from this exquisite pain. All we can do was cling to each other.

"Oh God please help us."

“Push!” I promise. “Push through the pain. Lily is almost here. You can do it.”

Father's trembling hands reach out and grasp his newborn daughter.

Lily in her mother's arms. 
Exquisite joy.

Birth and death.
Light and dark.
Joy and sorrow.

We can’t have one without the other.

Tonight I stepped into my back yard near sunset.
Snow beneath my feet, bare limbs of trees, grey skies stare in silence.

Death is here.

Yet as I turned the corner, I saw the first green spears of dormant flowers slicing through the frozen soil.

Caleb is near.
Lily is here.

Cycle of living, season of song, embraces and whispers,
“Life goes on.”