We never met.
But I saw you. Your grandmother, my friend Jennifer, showed me your picture on her phone. Later, when she showed me the picture again, I smiled and let her know that she didn’t need proof—I’d seen the photo. She got embarrassed, in the manner of a grandmother who was so foolishly, big-heartedly proud, that she couldn’t keep track of whom she’d bragged to.
“You don’t have to prove your point,” I said, smiling a second time, as she made to put her phone away, “but you can show me again, anyway. It’s a great picture. I love the pink bonnet.” Your grandma beamed, and passed the phone over, with your face ever-prominent, glad of another chance to thoroughly revel in the wonder of you. I said, “She’s beautiful,” playing with the word for emphasis, “just beau-ti-ful.” Her eyes sparkled in happy concurrence.
Now you are gone and it is incomprehensible that you have been taken from us, too soon and so unmercifully, in a criminal act as senseless as it is horrific. Never again will I hear tell from Jen of your newest adorable self, or be able to tease her about her surfeit of love for the marvel that you are.
This is not the first loss. Or the hundredth. Nor can there be comfort in the idea that it will be the last; it just isn’t so. That is not the world in which we live. We live in a world that is populated with mothers besieged. We live in a world in which those mothers are often judged, in ways both small and great, for that very besiegement. This violence is in keeping with the voluminous thefts perpetrated upon the most vulnerable. This violence is especially flagrant in its cravenness, but it is not remotely a rare occurrence.
But this is no time to talk about statistics, or politics, or gross social practice. All and any can look around and see the failings of society for themselves. For those of us who miss you, Ariel, this is really not a time for debate. Nor is it useful here to expound upon the dimensions of the rage that so naturally follows in the wake of such gut-hollowing injury.
This time is just for you, Ariel.
This time is only for dreaming of all the magical moments you possessed, waiting to bloom, in your small person. To conceive of you in all your endless promise. Now is the time for us to embrace every potential “you” in our hearts. An interlude of reverence for you, in all your possibility.
As I imagine you in every way you might have wanted to become, all the you’s that might have existed unfold together in a rush and spin by as one, and I find my vision blurry.
There is a thing that women do to get by, amidst the perpetual theft and threat they face for no reason other than their sex. They find a way to normalize the unabated menace in order that their children may be spared. But when this tacit contract collapses so obscenely, what is left? How do we carry on when every sweetness is now laced with a bitter aftertaste? How can so many relentless blows be borne?
Only by honoring the blessing that was, the blessing that might have been, the blessing that we will carry with us evermore. We must get by, if for nothing else than to bear witness.
We’ll bear witness for you Ariel.