Wednesday, October 8, 2014

This Must Be The Land That They Call Life

Two weeks ago, we had Coco baptized. It was different from Zuzu's baptism, which was in my parents' church and very traditional. This was more of a blessing or a dedication or a "welcome to the world, we love you baby" kind of ceremony.

My BFF from high school is now a Disciples of Christ minister (something no one who knew her in high school would have predicted and yet is the perfect definition of a true calling as now I can't imagine her doing anything else--until we get our own HGTV show spraypainting things we buy at thrift stores, or our cooking show where we pair recipes with classic novels) and I asked her to perform the ceremony. It was a gorgeous day and we did the baptism on a little island at a park (the same park where David and I had our engagement photos taken). 

the Rev. Monica with Colette
Monica and I joked about her being at this park baptizing my daughter when it seems like our high school selves were just there skipping school and smoking clove cigarettes (only on special occasions, I assure you) but such are the stages of life (and one man in his time plays many parts).

Playing the part of adequately responsible adults with baby
The ceremony was short and simple. Our families were there. It was a perfect blend of traditional and nontraditional and it felt right for us right now.

David's grandma (wiping a tear), his dad and his dad's wife, Ellie Kate, and Monica's mom
Bop, Grammy with Zuzu (who is licking snot from her nose), my cousin Rosemary, and great-aunt Dottie
my aunt and uncle with their granddaughter, Mesa
Somehow my Papa managed to not get into these photos (he's tricky like that), but he was there. Zuzu and Coco are lucky to have great-grandparents who are still around, and the baptism was a time when we especially missed my Nana and David's Grandpa, as well as my Grandma and Grandpa Vance and David's Grandma and Grandpa Duckworth. When I was pregnant with Eliza, one of the things I wrote in her baby book after her family baby shower was that she was so lucky to have a family who loved her so much already. It's so true for all of my girls.

I haven't written a lot about my faith here because I find it hard to articulate. My concept of God and His role in our lives was shattered when we lost Eliza, even though I realize now that it should have already happened--I don't know why I expected to be spared suffering when so many other people are not. And some serious shifts in my thinking had already happened as I got older and a little more reflective. I guess the most accurate thing to say is that I'm still searching.

Not pictured, Coco's sister, who insisted on picking her nose throughout the ceremony
I certainly have more questions than answers, but the Rilke poem I asked Monica to read at Coco's baptism expresses a particular view of God that I think is both beautiful and compatible with my (very limited) understanding of how God might be working in my life.

The promise here is one that God makes before we are born. It is not a promise that we will get through life unscathed, but it suggests that the holiness of life is in its intensity.

The way I read the poem, it says that the nearest we can come to God after we are born is in the moments of great happiness or crushing sadness. The delightful and the brutal. Or, as the poem says, beauty and dread. That, after all, is real life.

It's hard to feel close to God in the devastating moments, but it's an idea that I am thinking about a lot. It's easier to think that I could be feeling God's presence on a gorgeous day at a beautiful park surrounded by loved ones. But those experiences are equally real.

"God Speaks to Each of Us" by Rainer Maria Rilke

God speaks to each of us before we are,
Before he's formed us -- then, in cloudy speech,
But only then, he speaks these words to each
And silently walks with us from the dark:

Driven by your senses, dare
To the edge of longing. Grow
Like a fire's shadowcasting glare
Behind assembled things, so you can spread
Their shapes on me as clothes.
Don't leave me bare.

Let it all happen to you: beauty and dread.
Simply go -- no feeling is too much --
And only this way can we stay in touch.

Near here is the land
That they call Life.
You'll know when you arrive
By how real it is.

Give me your hand.


  1. What a perfect celebration and beautiful family!

  2. That is beautiful and so perfect. How special for Coco and Monica!

  3. beautiful poem and wonderful memories

  4. I had no idea! Lovely and such a great honor to have your friend Monica to officiate.

  5. I found after my grandson's death that often people who go through dark times in their lives will either turn towards God, turn away from God or re-define what God means to them. I found that I needed to re-define God in my life. It was a process right along with my grief...not easy. Today I am very sure of what I believe in and I am very comfortable with that. One thing I know for sure...kindness really matters in this world.