Arms that Ache

“Touch has a memory.” –John Keats

After his death, my mother described her grief in physical terms, "my arms ache to hold him." Photo by Al Graves
After his death, my mother described her grief physically, “my arms ache to hold him.” Photo by Al Graves

After my 5-month-old nephew died, my mother described her grief physically, “My arms ache to hold him.” That was thirty years ago. And still sometimes I  remember the feel of Darren in my arms. I recall his ravenous appetite and his eyes. Darren’s bright, curious eyes would move about the room absorbing all there was to learn.

I saw Darren today.

At an adjacent table I spied the bald baby with the round face. His eyes moved about the fast food restaurant watching. I imagined how he would feel in my arms; I pictured his wise eyes looking at me as I fed him a bottle.

Though I am a professional baby-watcher, my emotional reaction to this child of strangers was more intense than my typical delight. Initially, I thought that I was so drawn to this particular child because of his physical similarities to my own children. Both my daughter and son came into this world quite round-faced and bald.

Darren saw me today.

That’s when he and I connected visually. As not-really-Darren surveyed the room, his eyes met mine. In a moment, Darren was still with us. In a flash, my brother and sister-in-law still had a five-month-old child who was beloved and filled with their hopes and dreams. Their intense grief and pain never happened.

Photo by Al Graves
In a moment, Darren was still with us. In a flash, my brother and sister-in-law still had a five-month-old child who was beloved and filled with their hopes and dreams. Their intense grief and pain never happened. Photo by Al Graves

I even imagined fond memories of placing my newborn daughter in the arms of her toddler cousin when my brother’s family came to welcome my firstborn home. When toddler Darren’s eyes met hers, they locked and a bond of friendship began.

But that is not how it happened. Darren did not live to be six months and my firstborn never knew her cousin.

Still, Darren’s influence within my family far exceeds his short five and one-half months.

Darren Michael Graves
From the backside of the photos included in this post.

Though I do not believe in a god that would ever intentionally bring this kind of grief on anyone, though the God I perceive is never arbitrary nor “needed Darren” more than his parents, the One still moves through grief, growing love. Despite and through the heartache of a tiny casket, God advanced love.

Not-really Darren reminded me that love is like that. The five-month-old infant of strangers reminded me that love can move through loss, grief, and even death if we respond to the whisper in our ear.

The extravagant love that undergirds and moves throughout our existence does not accept “no” as a final answer. The Divine spirit will use a rock, a twig, a sparrow, me or you, or even the infant of a stranger if we are open to the loving prompt.

Not-really Darren, the child of strangers, opened himself to that loving prompt today. At a mere five months a round faced cherub touched me. He reminded me that neither death nor three-decades of aching arms can thwart love.

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