They shall not grow old

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain;
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.

Laurence Binyon
for the fallen

I'm sure she didn't mean to rip my heart out and stomp on it when she said "Oh Cheryl, you're a mum too." I'm sure that she didn't mean to cause me pain. I think she thought she was comforting me. I may have a son, I may have given birth, but to call me a mother: that's the cruelest thing.

I didn't change my son's diaper
I didn't nurse him
I didn't rock him to sleep
I sang him 1 lullaby
I didn't smell his amazing baby smell after a bath
I didn't stand over his cradle and wonder at the miracle that is a baby
I never even saw his eyes open

There are an entire lifetime of things I will never do with Gabriel. A life time of not being his mum. I'm not sure what the "mother" of a dead baby is, but it doesn't seem to be a real thing. How do you fit an entire lifetime into just 30 minutes? I can remember almost every moment. I have trained myself to. To hold onto every single thing. It's all I'll ever have. Don't forget a moment. At the going down of the sun, and it's rising, remember his face, feel his body in my arms. Don't forget. It's all you'll have.

I hadn't expected to find myself taken aback by baptism Sunday yesterday. It's not like I didn't know it was coming - I'm on Altar Guild. We did all the preparations for the baptism on Saturday. Our church only has 2 baptisms a year. After Christmas and after Easter. The one in December was fine.

There were 7 babies yesterday. And it's not like I didn't know that, either. I have heard every announcement. Every time a dad has come to the front of the church and announced the arrival of a happy, healthy baby. I remember every single one. I remember seeing women who were pregnant at the same time as I was. And then not. But they had babies. And I have memories. They have living experience of what happened last week, yesterday, five minutes ago. I have 30 minutes.

Their babies were baptized in a carved wooden font with a marble bowl. I polished the brass pitcher to pour the consecrated water over their heads. I put out the white linen towels, lovingly embroidered. Carefully laundered, ironed so perfectly. I put the holy oil in the shell. I know the words, an entire service, careful promises to raise a child in the family of God, to teach him Christ's ways. I saw baptismal candles, lit from the paschal candle, given to the candidates. The exhortation to let our light shine before men, so that they would see our Father in heaven. Everything carefully, thoughtfully done. Baptism is important in the life of the church. We must get it perfectly right.

Gabriel's font was a kidney basin, his pitcher a plastic cup. There were no promises to raise him in the Christian faith, no God Parents to promise help. There was no white dress, lovingly handed down. His towel was a bleached out peach face cloth. There were no words, no liturgy, just three quick drips of water "I baptize you in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit". There was no parade around the church, no applause at the end, no welcome into the church, recognition as a member of God's family. Just a somber reminder that we were rushed, that our Parish Priest came quickly, before he was gone.

Perhaps the angels applauded when Gabriel joined them, maybe Jesus carried our wee one around heaven, maybe he wears white, maybe the light of God is so bright that Gabe's humble baptismal candle would have been eclipsed.

But yesterday, yesterday was about what wasn't and what never could be. It was about the hole the size of the universe in my heart, and the baby who will never grow large enough to fill it. Because he shall never grow old.