All Beautiful Things Live in Memory

I believe that even if every single person forgot Gabriel, even if I forgot, God would still remember the life that He created, the life that He received back. But, I am struck by the power of memory. I am struck by the deep yearning humans so often have within them, to remember. To honour. To proclaim the worth of a life. To celebrate how we were touched. To instill memory. I believe that it is a sacred trust to keep a memory alive.

The Inuit in Canada's north use things called Inuksuit or Inukshuk's as markers. You see them on the frozen tundra - solitary clumps of stone, often looking like humans. I was about 7 the first time I saw one, in Yellowknife to visit family, and my uncle took me to them. He talked about how the Inuit used them, to mark something. Direction, a path, a food cache, a good hunt. In the frozen tundra that is so very flat, it's easy to get disorientated. An Inuksuit is a sign post. A physical sign of something that has happened, been discovered.

It interests me in the Old Testament, that every time the Lord did something for someone, every time He showed himself to a person or a group of people, or every time the nation of Israel celebrated a victory, a lesson learned, a loss, He commanded them to build an altar. Out of rock. A solid and impermeable thing to mark what had happened. And when you read the OT, you will see reference to earlier altars, still in use. I sometimes wonder if these are the earliest recorded sacraments, an outward sign of an inward grace. A reminder that when things change in our hearts, we should change ourselves to accommodate our hearts. A physical reminder of an emotional change.

I have been thinking about why we planted a tree for Gabriel. For a long time, I couldn't tell you. I didn't know. I knew that it mattered, I knew that I wanted to, I knew that it was important, but I couldn't translate these feelings, longings into words. And words matter to me. Explanations matter to me. I like to know why I do things. I use words to describe, to explain, to bound my feelings, my thoughts.

We are moving on, Mr. Spit and I. Sometimes slowly, sometimes haltingly, often not sure what's next. But moving on. We are writing the end of a chapter. Gabriel will continue on in the book. He will always be a part of the cast of characters that is the story of my life. But he is no longer the main character, the only character. I can be Gabriel's mother, and the mother of another child. There will be paragraphs that belong to him in the new chapter. Parts where he is spoken of more than others. We will not leave him behind, he is part of the story.

As I pondered this business of moving on to another chapter, I realized what the tree was. It was my altar, my Inuksuit. It was the marker that there had been a baby, his name was Gabriel, and he is in heaven. It marks too, that I am here on earth, and Gabriel and I are on separate paths. I have a life to live, commitments to meet, things to do. I am still a wife, still a friend, still an employee, still a volunteer. I am still far from heaven.

I am also still Gabriel's mother. I cannot leave him behind, but I can close the chapter of the book. I can set Gabriel down, in a way. I can realize that our path's have diverged for now, and they will re-unite in heaven. I can leave him at the tree. I can allow the tree to remember for me, to mark and honour for me. To be the outward sign that something happened when Gabriel was conceived, something happened in those long months that he grew in me. Something happened in those altogether short moments that we were together. I changed, accommodated, became a different person.

All beautiful things live in memory. That's what Gabriel's tree is for. It is the living memory of what was, so that I can move into what will be. It contains within its sap, its leaves, its roots my memories, my sorrow and my grief. So that I can be whole.