The Epic of John Gilgesh (Chapter 1; part 3):

Several minutes later Anton returned to the room and reported, as expected, that it wouldn’t be possible to see their son tonight; that the doctor was gone for the evening and they’d have to ask him tomorrow. Anton had arrived to Mary’s room already feeling somewhat dejected, but as he explained the circumstances to her, and saw his wife’s darkening gaze, he added quickly that the nurses didn’t have the authority to let them in to see their baby, and besides, even if they could, visiting hours were ending in a few minutes.

“Visiting hours?!” Mary exclaimed sardonically. “Am I just a visitor here?!”

“Apparently they’re short-staffed as well. Several nurses caught the flu and are out. So that makes it more difficult…”

“These things are not important, Anton.” Mary pleaded. “Fine, they’re plausible reasons, but not justifications. None rise to the level of…I mean really?! Visiting hours, an absent doctor…nurses with the flu? These are the things standing between a mother and her newborn baby? I haven’t even held him yet! Three days he’s already been in this world, and I haven’t even smelled him, I don’t even know what he smells like…what he feels like! No, Anton, this is not right. I’m telling you it isn’t right! I am getting into that room, and I am going to hold John; and I am going to give him what he needs. Tonight!”

Anton sat down on the edge of the bed and looked into his wife’s eyes; and then he embraced her, pulling her agitated body close to him. She tensed at first, resisting the intimacy and the compassion of his gesture, which made her feel weak at a time when she believed she needed to feel strong. But without warning she burst into tears, and she wept bitterly into his chest. And she cried for a very long time—letting herself go—which surprised her; and she even wailed for a few moments, which frightened her. All the while Anton held her firmly against him, and with one hand he caressed the back of her head, letting his fingers run gently through her long, black hair—which she had always found very soothing.

“I just want to hold him, it isn’t too much to ask…is it?”

“Of course not, and you will. Very soon. Let’s just be patient a little longer. Everything will be fine. You just rest now, and I’ll head on home and get ready for my classes tomorrow. We’ll both get some sleep, and you can talk with the doctor in the morning and I’m sure they will let you see John. I’ll be back tomorrow evening and who knows, you’ll most likely be able to tell me finally, how our little boy smells. And hopefully not like a dirty diaper.”

Anton and Mary shared a brief chuckle, and she leaned back against her pillow, as he stood up. “It’s just a few more hours, honey. Get some sleep. Everything will be fine in the morning.” He leaned over and kissed her on the forehead and gathered up his things before saying goodnight and leaving the room. He was relieved to see her close her eyes as he shut the door. “She must be very tired,” he thought to himself. “It was a very difficult birth; sleep is the best thing for her now. She’ll get good rest and feel refreshed in the morning.” He continued to assuage his concerns about his wife in this way, and with many similar thoughts, as he walked down the hallway, descended the stairs to the lobby and exited the hospital, making his way to the car. In the back of his mind however, far back and mostly hidden from view, he had other thoughts, doubtful thoughts, based on previous experiences which had demonstrated his wife’s stubbornness and her one-pointed determination. If he allowed himself to consider these memories as well, he would have admitted there was little chance that she would remain in bed for the entire night, and leave the nurses at the end of the hallway alone, and leave John unsought for; but he was adept at suppressing these thoughts, so he happily started his car and began the drive home, comfortably though erroneously convinced that Mary was safely ensconced in her bed for the night.

Mary couldn’t sleep; no, not at all. Though she did try, and her body wanted to; but in her soul, rest was an impossibility. But how can we say it was her soul that was troubled? Was it not simply her mind and her emotions in turmoil? And didn’t we say at the outset of our story that words mattered, and precision in our choice of words would be of the utmost importance in conveying the truth of it all, and for describing things accurately? Yes, the disquiet that she felt inside, since John had been taken from within her womb, was certainly difficult to put into words, but Mary wrestled to find the proper means of conveying this experience—for her own personal understanding, and as a matter of scientific inquiry. The ache, the emptiness, the confused disorientation that currently overwhelmed her was only an aspect of a more profound, wider and more expansive unrest. It included every aspect of her being, including her thoughts and her emotions, and it permeated her body, yet it would be an error to resort simply to a biologically reductionist argument to explain it; simply because neurons are involved, and hormones as well—as are many other physiological processes which could be observed and measured—observing all of these is simply to say that her body was involved, but not that her body was the source. Before John, she was one person; after John, she was somebody new. As his life grew within her, she died and was born again; and this process occurred over and again, dying again, and again, to who she had been. John was her butterfly, and she was his chrysalis; yet, she was a butterfly too, and he was her catalyst. Mary smiled as she landed on this image in her mind, and she came to the conclusion that the greatest realities are best captured poetically. It is the poet and the prophet who best reveal the workings of the soul, and who translate the mind of God to humanity most truthfully. With John, she discovered that the building blocks of life are charity, and the foundation that undergirds all of creation, is charity. Charity being that love that is union between entities, love between persons, devotion, self-sacrifice, endless giving and intimate relationship. Charity, Mary decided, is the universal language which communicates perfect understanding, and holds everything together; and charity is the engine that powers the cosmos, and keeps it going. Without John, she was now like an amputee, the one who experiences that strange sensation where they can still feel the toes that are no longer there, and the itch of the leg that has been taken away. She had been augmented, and now she was diminished. She once would have defined herself by her attributes, but now she would define herself by what was missing—apophatically, she was the mother without her son.

(to be continued)

~FS

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