The Death of a Son
When I was six months pregnant, my son died of brain cancer. He was ten-years-old. I remember sitting beside him in Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital.
We were Hindus. Yes, I know, I’m a religious gypsy. I’ve been a Methodist, a Catholic, a Hindu, a Pentecostal Christian and a Baptist. I remember calling the guru on the phone from the hospital.
The guru and all the monks loved Nandi. He’d spent a lot of time at the ashram on Kauai winning their hearts. They knew he was sick and dying and they loved him.
“Where is he, right now?” I asked, even though his body lay on the hospital bed beside me in a coma, breathing noisily, still as death. I wanted to know where his soul was.
The guru explained his soul hovered above me, trying to get into the baby in my belly. And strange as this may seem, I was comforted.
Three months later, Nandi had died and I’d moved to Hawaii with my other four children, fleeing the grief. The pain of cleaning out a dead child’s possessions is like no other. I had to move.
As I lay on my own bed in labor, I looked at my midwife. “Savitri,” I said. “I don’t feel like doing this.”
I hadn’t felt like doing anything since Nandi died. I was in an emotional vacuum. The thought of going through labor and delivery was overwhelming.
My six-year-old daughter suddenly ran into my bedroom. “Mommy, Mommy,” she cried. “Nandi is on the ceiling and he has no face.”
“What does that mean?” I asked Savitri.
Savitri explained. “Hindus believe souls about to be reborn, hover around the delivering mother, waiting to enter the baby. They appear with no face.”
Minutes later, I delivered my son. He was born completely encased in the bag of membranes. Doctors would have pierced this, releasing the fluid. Midwives don’t. Savitri cut it open releasing the water, took out my son, cleared his airway and waited for the squall. When he cried loud enough for everyone in the house to hear, she handed him to me.
As I held him close, much of the pain of the last three months melted away. I put him to my breast and he suckled. For the first time in three months, I smiled.