Tomorrow is my first Mother's Day raising another woman's child.
I thought about her today when I was kissing the Bethie's cheeks, repeatedly, until, annoyed, she pushed me away. But I can't help myself. Her cheeks are so perfectly soft and irresistible that I kiss them fifty? a hundred? times a day. Then I swooped her down and she giggled loudly and I hoped that her mother was able to watch us from heaven. I hoped she could see see how much she is loved. I hoped she could see how I can't stop kissing her.
I've been told that we don't actually look down from heaven on those left behind. That this is a myth we placate ourselves with, comforting, but theologically inaccurate. I've been told that when we do actually go to heaven that the vision of Christ will be so wondrous to behold that any earthly cares will instantly be forgotten and we won't have any desire whatsoever to look back in on the world we left behind.
My limited, human mind can in no way grasp the glory of an encounter with the living Christ. But neither can my mother's heart conceive of no longer caring about how my children are doing, ever.
I think I believe she sees.
Her name was Selam, which means peace.
They said she was compassionate, the one people came to with their troubles. When our daughter points to the bandaid on my finger, furrows her brow, and asks, nodding, and with great concern, "Booboo?" I think I see Selam in her.
They also said she was joyful and loved to laugh. When our daughter dances around the living room, jumping on and off of couch pillows, twirling, laughing, I think I see Selam in her.
As time goes by I will begin to see more of myself in Bethie. The lines of nature and nurture will blur so that we will not know which traits come from her, which came from me, which are uniquely her own. This is the legacy of a daughter with two mothers.
Our family was created from her tragedy. Our joy was birthed from her pain. And this is not right. It's a sign of a fallen world, a world where mothers die and babies are orphaned and cheeks sometimes go unkissed forever.
I've never understood how God orchestrates the universe and I don't expect to figure it out now. I will never know how it came to be that Selam had to die in order for her daughter to call me Mama. Someday this child whose cheeks she never got to kiss will ask me these questions and I will not have the answers.
But tomorrow, on Mother's Day, we will dress our child in traditional Ethiopian clothing and on the altar of a church in Texas, we will dedicate her to the Lord, the Lord we often do not understand. We will promise to raise her to seek his peace when the mysteries of this world elude her. To seek his wisdom in a world so confusing. To seek his joy in a world so filled with pain. To seek his life in a world so filled with death.
And I pray that Selam can see this. And I pray that it brings her peace.
Children born to another woman call me "Mom".
The depth of that tragedy and the magnitude of that privilege are not lost on me.