Saturday, February 6, 2010

When There Are No Words

Yesterday we found out that Willa will die from her cancer. The tumor in her abdomen, the mass that has been growing and receding but all the while doing its terrible business in her tiny body has wrapped itself around the major blood vessels of her left side. If we proceed with surgery she will lose her leg, probably her bladder, and without seeing with the coldness of the eye who knows what else. The tumor will take her life.

I have just begun today to say these things. I have just begun to feel the words in my mouth. To taste the filth of them. To spit them out in disgust upon tables underneath harsh lights. These are the most real words I have ever said. But on the examining table it amazes me how little they seem. These words are so small. Even “cancer.” Just two syllables, lower-cased, a mark on the page.

They mean nothing compared to what I feel in my heart, in my stomach, across the scar on my abdomen, the scar where Willa emerged, the scar she would have a mirror image of should she have been able to have surgery.

What grew inside of me was pure life and what grows inside of her is pure death and there it must stay locked away, trapped, all-powerful and final.

There are words that have not been born. Made up of letters no one has ever seen. There is an entire vocabulary that parents know who have lost a child. I think that is what we see behind their eyes. It’s a language I have not yet mastered but I will. It is a purer expression of that it feels to lose your baby. To lose the life you made, the life you put all your life into.

I have no ability to express what I feel. I don’t think it is ever a thing you can share. It is more invisible than our most lost places. It is more invisible than anything I have yet experienced.

When you have language you can express your fears. You find ways of telling people what you are most terrified of and by these sentences you build roads, you make pathways, you fashion worn trails back and forth from mouth to ear, rivers of understanding flowing parallel to them. You make whole worlds of connection and hands holding, reaching out and making purchase.

With no language to do this I am scared. I am scared of the questions I have locked in my heart, my stomach, my scar. I am scared of asking these questions in words that do not express true meaning, my truest intentions, accuracy of feeling. They do not sound right as:

When Willa dies so much of me will die with her, will I have anything left?

Will I still be a mother?

Will I learn to live without her?

Can I forgive myself if I do?

If you drive past my house today you will not see anything amiss. It is not draped in black. It is not on fire. Tomorrow I will go to the pharmacy and pick up Willa’s prescriptions. I will not be dressed in black. I will not be on fire. When I drive home I will steer myself true. I will return to the driveway. I will not drive into the house. I will not set the world on fire. But inside me everything is black, everything burns, the world is ashes and there is just no way to say it, any of it. Not what it feels like. Not what it means. Nothing.

There are just no words.