“Nana, see the moon up there?”
My seven-year-old grandson points the camera phone to the dark sky, where I see a crescent moon.
“Yes, I see it.”
“I want to go fishing on the moon.”
He points the phone back down to his own freckled face, and smiles broadly, showing me how some baby teeth are replaced by, “my three new ‘grow-up’ teeth”.
Some children don’t get to grow up. My heart is broken by the violence against babies in the current war in the Middle East. It hurts in the deepest place of what humans hold sacred – the love for our young and innocent offspring. Nothing is stronger than the urge to protect that innocence.
And when you can’t, it can shatter your soul.
And your enemy knows that because they feel the same way. But in their hatred, they distort their view and you are the threat to their babies, to their right to protect their way of life – so they try to destroy you, and what you hold most dear.
And nothing will break you like the loss of innocent life, especially of someone you love.
A few months ago, I walked the cemetery grounds on Kauai beneath the hot summer sun, and looked at my feet, sensing how my grandparents must have walked this same soft dirt long ago. They emigrated from Spain to work the sugar cane and married in a church that once stood above this cemetery. I look at the spot above the red steps where the church used to stand and imagine them beaming at each other on their wedding day, hearts full of hopes and dreams. Their life story highlights play in my mind - they work here three years then emigrate with other relatives to central California, where they plant and harvest grapes, tomatoes, and apricots. They have five children who live, and one who dies at age four. Next, I picture their gravesite in another cemetery, one in Hollister, California, where they are buried. Between their gravestones is a photo of a young boy, Tom. Their four-year-old is buried between them in the ground.
I spent ten days in Kauai with my husband, daughter, and her family, including the seven-year-old who wants to fish on the moon. After we left them at the airport, we returned to the empty house to spend one more night. It was so quiet without all six of us that I felt disoriented. I walked out on the back deck, and not hearing my grandson’s cheerful laughter and squeals of joy was deafening, and my heart began to fill with a heaviness, that was both sadness and gratitude. I breathed and circles of sadness spiraled out from the green grass to the tall palm and avocado trees, to the hills, to the blue sky and far mountain. My heart broke open and I cried out loud. First for missing my grandson, but my heart quickly shifted, as I knew I would see him again in a few months. I gasped, then wailed for those who love a child who will never return - like my grandparents who buried their four-year-old, and more recently our niece whose toddler died suddenly in her sleep just last January. I cry aloud to the skies and nature holds steady to try and contain me and tries to answer that this is the way of things. But that seems cruel. I can’t be comforted. The beauty, the colors, and the pain all bleed together and there is no boundary between their pain and my pain and all of our pain, and I inhale the depth, the majesty, the truth, and gravity of this moment.
This land has seen it all and opens its arms to hold the bereaved and gently lay down the dead.
But it isn’t fair. The earth can be cruel. People can be cruel. Nature can be cruel. A wave of illness or war can sweep away so many dreams – dreams of raising all one's children to adulthood, squeals of innocent laughter, or dreams of fishing on the moon.