I sit with my family and the pastor of my grandmother’s church. We are telling stories about her, helping the pastor prepare for the next day’s eulogy and helping ourselves to honor her with laughter and memories. There are so many good stories and I find myself feeling more connected to my family than I have in a long time, and then they start talking about miracles.
It was a miracle she found her first daughter, adopted at birth.
It was a miracle that my uncle called at just the right time to sing to her as she lay dying.
The pastor smiles gently and says that “Coincidences are just God’s way of staying anonymous,” and thank God (or whoever, whatever) my daughter starts to fuss so I can pick her up and hide my face while walking around the room with her before they see my clenched jaw, my rolling eyes, my anger.
I’m still so damned angry.
I used to believe in miracles, I want to say, and then my son died, possibly in pain – we don’t know – after not even spending a full day on this earth. They lowered his body temperature to help prevent brain damage, and I worry that he was cold, that he was confused, that he wanted me when I wasn’t there. I held him as he breathed his last breath and felt the shudder just after his life left him, and where was my fucking miracle, damn it? Where was his?
For that matter, of course, what about the babies who die every day, all over the world, some from hunger, some after days of pain? How can these people I love believe in a God that doles out special favors so randomly and cruelly while leaving the truly needy to gasp and plead and cry? How can the pastor, who should have seen enough by now to know better, encourage them?
So, as fast as you can say “miracle,” I’m thrust outside the family circle. They go on to talk about faith, about how faith was one of Grandma’s gifts to them, and I feel like I don’t belong, like I speak a different language. I don’t let myself talk about this, don’t move to destroy the real comfort they find in miracles, in faith. I want to, but I don’t. Dot falls asleep at my breast in the bedroom, and her sleeping face reminds me of her brother, and I want to coo and laugh and cry and howl and stomp out of the house all at the same time.
As much as I laugh at the thought now, I once truly thought, for a while, that we’d get a miracle of our very own, a piece of divine intervention just for us. Teddy was so vigorous in utero, and my water didn’t break early as almost every medical professional seemed to think it would so he was able to be born at what the medical professionals deemed the optimal size and age, but there was more than this to raise our hopes.
When we visited the Children’s Hospital the day before my induction began, we saw the garden for the first time. There was a life-sized statue of the Tin Man there, smiling at us, and we felt like it was a good omen, a sign that we’d come to the right place, a piece of reassurance placed there by a beneficent Universe to let us know in advance that we would all three emerge okay. Teddy’s initials, you see, are T. I. N., and we’d been jokingly calling him our little tin man for some time. We returned to our room at the Ronald McDonald House feeling comforted, feeling like God had winked at us. Like we’d been promised a miracle.
I really wanted to believe in that Tin Man because it would help me to believe in my own little tin man, in my Teddy. Later, after long days of induction and the grim decision-making that came after my son was born, we said goodbye to Teddy in that garden. I couldn’t look the Tin Man in the eye.
If God is responsible for that kind of coincidence, I’m not surprised he wants to remain anonymous.
I don’t know what my family would say if I told them all of this. I’ve touched on it when I’ve talked to Mom, but I worry that I might be testing her faith past what she’s comfortable with, and, as I miss my own faith and belief that God was a sort of friend I could talk to, I don’t want to push her too far.
I sit through Grandma’s funeral (beautiful) and chat with family afterward. I show off my daughter and smile and hide my anger away behind love and duty, which is maybe the best thing I can do with this anger right now.
But I don’t believe in miracles or in the Tin Man any more, and I’ve come to think there’s no coming back from that.