The essay begins:
My daughter was born through a window in my uterus, and she died through the windshield of her car. I don’t know what to make of this beginning that became an ending. There are easy parallels: cesarean birth is a rapid transition in which you are suddenly taken from one reality to another. Certainly Peyton’s death was like that. But she worked to get born, just as I worked to birth her, for 26 hours before the cesarean was performed. In the end we were both rescued from our mutual travail--I by the epidural and the c-section, she by the doctor’s hands pulling her through. Am I then to assume that it was God’s hands pulling her through that windshield, tossing and tumbling her body 50 feet down the highway, breaking most of her bones and smashing her internal organs beyond repair?
I don’t know how many parallels we can make between birth and death, and I am not going to make any facile ones here. It has been two and a half years since I was invited to write this article, and I have been unable to face it until this moment--1 a.m.--as I rise from my unrestful rest to put fingers to computer keys. Do you want me to tell you there is some sense in this? I can’t find any. Do you want me to say that almost three years after her death, I have integrated the experience in the same way I finally accepted and integrated the psychological pain of my cesarean? I am sorry to disappoint. I am not an enlightened sage who can say that death and life are all one, that it was in the beginning, so it now and ever shall be, that death is the final stage of growth, that ultimately, everything is OK. Somewhere deep in the core of my being I know that the this is the ultimate truth--everything is OK just as it is--and yet my mother’s heart cries out for the presence of my daughter, to touch and hold her in the flesh, to revel in her as I did on that day, two weeks after her birth, when I looked down at her in her bassinet just as she opened her eyes, and was rewarded with her first smile, so brilliant and radiant, illuminating the room with utter delight.
Twenty years and 361 days later, after diapers and walking, blissful breastfeeding, chauffering her to gymnastics and dance lessons, and sharing her joys and sorrows late at night while she poured out her heart to me from behind the shower curtain, I stood by her body in the hospital room, surrounded it with my arms, and poured out my own heart to her corpse. She had been dead for 22 hours, but my mother’s heart could not believe that I could not call her back until I tried. I talked, I screamed, I sobbed, I begged her to live and breathe again. I told her I could not live without her. I touched every part of her body and begged the skin to twitch, the head to turn, the legs to move--anything to show me that this wasn’t reality, that this inert but gorgeous body lying in front of me was not really lifeless, that those stunning dancer’s legs were never going to plié again, that those graceful hands would never again arc, that those lips would not move to kiss mine or to smile, that her voice would never again say, “Mommy.”
Read the rest of the essay here.