Tim and I just got to have 24 hours on our own in the city and as expected, it was bliss. Part of what we did was go see First Man. I’m sorry, but there will be spoilers in this post. I was really, deeply moved by the memories that went through Neil’s mind when he got to the moon and the activity he chose to do to honor his loss in that penultimate moment of human achievement. As a mother, I would say my biggest fear is losing one of my children, particularly while they are still children. Watching that man process his grief, seeing that even ON THE MOON, his daughter was in his soul, it just resonated with me. There are some losses so great to the human heart that no amount of running can allow us reprieve. He went to the freaking moon and she was there.
In school right now, among other things, I’m learning about the history of the church doctrine of the Trinity. I’ve never really thought much about it before, to be honest. But when I was watching First Man, and that moment where he releases the tiny little bracelet, the verse from the Psalms came to me “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there. If I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.” (Psalm 139:7-10). Many would say that the presence we feel in those moments of pure hell is the Holy Spirit, when we “make our bed in the depths.” I think Neil did that. His heart just broke in his loss. He made his bed in the depths. Yet the horror he experienced propelled him to do dangerous, wonderful things.
I can’t help but wonder if somehow the work of God is in that grief, that there is something holy about a father loving a sick daughter that much. Who doesn’t understand the loss of a child better than God Himself? Is loss an opportunity to connect deeper to this mysterious Trinitarian God? I don’t always like these types of questions because the tendency is to immediately validate all loss as “worth it” because somehow, God can resurrect beauty from the ashes of our lives, of life itself. I don’t think losing a 2 year old daughter is “worth it” no matter the result. So I just have to give that all a hard pass. Perhaps it’s more productive (and kind) to reframe the fact that God can do awesome stuff with really shitty stuff by saying his ability to do that makes him incredible. Maybe we can just let that be about him and not about why shit happens. I’m just not willing to wager my kiddos to somehow learn more about God. But if God can be with us in tremendous grief, by all means, bring it on.
I think watching that scene on the moon also took me to a place of empathy. Empathy for the human experience, how desperately we wish we could run from grief and loss - it’s just all so relatable and reasonable to me. I found it both utterly devastating and beautiful that he found her there in his heart, even so far away. He carried her with him. There’s just something inescapable about pain. I’ve written about the inevitability of being in pain as a woman and also about making friends with your pain (thanks Glennon). This was just another layer to that conversation, another moment where I could recognize myself in another human. I cannot imagine the devastation people go through when they lose a child. I am full-on afraid of that possibility. The desire to make the pain stop is just so real and right to me. Anything outside of that would make us more than human.