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Sunday, July 27, 2014

Piecemeal

Dear Josie,

I am quite fond of Walt Whitman.   One of my favorites is his 'Song of Myself'.   He says "I am large.  I contain multitudes."

Recently I've been struggling.  I'll be somewhere, in a park or a car, and I'll think to myself:   I shouldn't be here. 

I think it when I'm typing, as my fingers move or when I'm sleeping, eyes darting and returning from worlds I can't remember.  I am here, but I shouldn't be.

I search for the logic in it, but stumble upon the same answer repeatedly.  I should be with you. 

I should be rocking you, holding you, kissing your toes.  I should know your smell, but I don't.  I think it's what hurts the most.  Imagine a life laid before you, limitless in its youth, every direction incorrect. 

There is a fairly recent phenomenon circulating in the scientific world.  I can see your father's eyes glazing over in my head, but it's really just so cool. 

Microchimerism is defined as the "persistent presence of a few genetically distinct cells in an organism."  Researchers have known for decades that, during gestation, some maternal cells cross the placenta and can be found in fetal tissue.  These cells have been found to increase and support the baby's budding immune system, precisely why certain vaccinations are recommended during pregnancy.  One may pass the antibodies to her baby.

But amazingly, there have been cells found inside women which are not their own.  "Foreign" cells.  Cells that most likely came from their babies during gestation.   At first, it was thought that fetal cells only circulated in the mother's bloodstream, crossing over the placenta and proving beneficial in chromosomal analysis.  But in a new study, scientists have found these cells actually embedded in the mother's organs.  In some cases, male cells were found in the brains of women that had been living there for several decades. 

We are taught to understand that we are one entity, in and of ourselves. Genetically uniform. Every cell created by another of its own. Imagine the absurdity in finding this is not entirely true. The connectedness, in the realization that most people carry the remnants of others.

Perhaps it is most healing to acknowledge that which I repeatedly encounter:  I am no longer the same person I was before you.  This is certainly true on the surface, quite visibly sometimes, but genetically, you have changed me as well.

I can feel the void now, every cell that left me and crossed over into you, wheeled away under flesh and returned to ash with yours.  There are parts of me that died with you that day, and I'll never get them back.

But I can also feel a shift, the gain inside my loss.  Pieces of you fixed in my every breath and thought.  The completion, in every way a part contributes to the whole.  Every touch is yours, every sight and curse and joy.  Lucky is she to house the cells of her beloved. 

I was recently asked what death means to me.  After a minute I responded.  Death means nothing.

The truth is, you haven't left me.  Death is merely the reminder.

Love,
Mom









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