When I was pregnant with our first child, Sam wanted to know if the baby was going to be a boy or a girl. He would be happy either way; he just wanted to be prepared. As first-time parents, we entertained fantasies that we could be prepared for things like babies and parenthood.
Two years later, when I was expecting our second child, Sam again wanted to know the child’s gender, but by then I had got used to the idea of not knowing. On the day of the ultrasound, the baby’s legs were crossed in such a way that the doctor could not determine the sex, and off I waddled my hidden child safely in the womb. I did not arrange a control ultrasound. The baby would let us know in time.
Grief, too, requires its own ignorance, without the benefit of a date when all will be revealed. I didn’t know why Sam ended his life, which seemed impossible when he was in such despair. I didn’t know what I missed, where I failed, if I could have stopped him, how our children and I would be without him. Eventually I would have to learn to live with so many unknowns. And you did.
There was one thing I knew. In these dark days of intense grief, someone shone through with a simple but powerful message: “You have been seen. You are loved.”
Over the next week we received nocturnal offerings. Always simple – six apples, seven clementines, eight packets of chewing gum – each adorned with the distinctive silver ribbon, white square note and childish handwriting.
It could have been a coordinated effort, a family project, or a delightfully smart friend. I didn’t know and I didn’t want to know anymore. Something about not knowing irritated me. I started corralling the boys in the back kitchen at night and bribing them with dessert or an extra chapter of The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane so the anonymous giver could stay. I’ve made it my mission to protect her sacred act of generosity.