Waiting With Gabriel
What if you knew the baby you were carrying was fated to die at birth?
I was especially drawn to the birth-death announcement cards. Now there's something you won't find at the shopping mall. The cards seemed to me to be a sensitive and tangible way to let people know about Gabriel, in the unimaginable future after he had arrived and then left us. The illustrations were understated and touching. One featured a red-gold maple tree with a lone leaf drifting away. On another, a man's hand had just released a sunset orange balloon into a blue summer sky.
I turned the page and saw a striking watercolor of a child's hand touching the palm of an ethereal hand of God. It reminded me of Michelangelo's Creation of Adam from the Sistine Chapel ceiling, especially now that the frescoes have been restored to their original vibrant hues. The inscription on the card read: "Let the children come to me! Do not stop them, because the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these."
I knew at that moment that I wanted to use that illustration and that Gospel passage to announce Gabriel's birth. It suited our circumstances perfectly. We were going to let Gabriel come to God.
A day or so after Gabriel's funeral, the girls were swinging on the swing set and playing in the backyard. I was wandering aimlessly along the path of paving stones in the yard, feeling terribly heavy and terribly empty at the same time.
"Mommy, look at the butterfly," Elena said.
Oh, really, a butterfly. Isn't that nice.
I was not interested.
She insisted. So I wearily stepped closer and saw the strangest butterfly I have ever seen, resting on the ivy. It was asymmetrically colored, the left half strikingly different from the right. One side had the coloring of a normal monarch, mostly orange with black accents, while the other half seemed almost entirely black.
In a rush it flew right toward me and landed on the center of my chest.
Just as quickly it was off again, flying around the side of the house and out of my view. Stunned and covered with goosebumps on that steamy August day, I had two instantaneous thoughts, the kind you have to struggle to translate into words. That butterfly somehow represented Gabriel, sending a message to me. And its delicate flight was like that of a satellite that dips just close enough to the gravitational pull of a star to gather power to fling itself even further into the universe.