Monday, July 27, 2009

God, an ant, and my daughter's death

There is something beautiful about a billion stars held steady by a God who knows what He is doing. They hang there, the stars, like notes on a page of music, free-form verse, silent mysteries swirling in the blue like jazz. And as I lay there, it occurred to me that God is up there somewhere. Of course, I had always known He was, but this time I felt it, I realized it, the way a person realizes they are hungry or thirsty. The knowledge of God seeped out of my brain and into my heart. 

-Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz

God, an ant, and my daughter's death 15 years later...

What an odd title: What does God have to do with an ant have to do with Chey's death?

Let me explain...this weekend I found a little ant in my sink.

I don't know how the lone soldier got there, but he painstakingly- and without any success- kept trying to climb out of the sink only to slip to the bottom and have to start all over again. Exhausted, he continued to fight against his certain fate.  In an effort to help him without getting bitten, I put a small piece of tissue in the sink thinking he'd gratefully latch on and I could whisk him off to be reunited with his little ant friends in the yard.  

He wanted nothing to do with my help. I would put the tissue down and he'd move the other direction. I did not relent. Neither did he. In an attempt to escape, he even crawled down the dark, dank drain momentarily hoping I'd disappear by the time he returned.

Again, I tried to rescue him. 

Again, he avoided me.

So I tried to reason with him.

I said with consternation, "Now listen little ant," and continued in a frustrated tone, "I'm trying to save you here. Can I get some cooperation?"

Then I thought of what that must be like for an ant. To be stuck in an unfamiliar place, fighting to get out, fearful and confused.  And along comes a frighteningly incomprehensible (for an ant) giant who is causing even more psychic and physical pain. Despite my good intentions, for the ant it surely mustn't have felt like help at the time. 

I recently read the book Blue Like Jazz and Miller made a profound point that reverberated through my mind at that very moment.  He asserted that a human cannot really understand God (particularly during the midst of a tragedy) any more than an ant can understand a human.

Hmph. A moment of contextual perspicuity. 

That ant in my story could no more see the bigger picture of his own saving - despite my good intentions - than we, as humans can understand why there is so much pain in ours and others' lives. And in failing to trust, the ant was doomed.  He would never escape his present circumstances without trusting.  

Fifteen years ago today, Cheyenne Cacciatore died suddenly in what would be the most painful and epiphanic event of my life. It took me many years to understand that in losing her, I found me. The trauma of her death saved me in many ways. Yet, in the painful chaos of the first years after her death, I fought against the reality of grief.  I, like the ant, could not trust. So I climbed up and fell, over and over, down the porcelain walls of loss. No where easy to go but into the drain of the abyss.  

I could not see the entire picture or the potential outcomes. I could not begin to contemplate the fact that even amidst the suffering and terror, I was in the process of being saved.  

I miss you Chey. Every second of every minute of every hour of every day, I MISS you.  I don't understand the bigger picture of my own saving now, but one day I will. Maybe God will pick me up gently with his tissue and set me outside, in the yard, where I can find you again and you can tell me all about the saving of your momma. 

I love you. Happy 15th Birthday.


The soul still sings in the darkness telling of the beauty she found there; and daring us not to think that because she passed through such tortures of anguish, doubt, dread, and horror, as has been said, she ran any the more danger of being lost in the night. Nay, in the darkness did she, rather, find herself.

--St. John, Dark Night of the Soul

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