dear men

Dear Men,

You might not know this, but a woman you love was groped. Maybe she was fondled in the breasts. Maybe the crotch. Maybe she was kissed when and where she didn’t want to be kissed. Maybe some coach said something sexual about her body. Maybe her privates were grabbed by her friend’s creepy uncle in a barn. Maybe a total stranger squeezed her tit while she was hustling through a crowd in Times Square. Maybe some pallid thug flashed her. Maybe a self-styled playa sent her a shot of his erect penis via Facebook message.

But whatever happened, she was violated. As a kid, as a teenager, as a woman: she was violated. And not just one woman you know was violated. Many women you know were violated. More than you ever realized.

You don’t know about it because they never told you. Maybe they never told anyone. Maybe they were too embarrassed. Maybe men have always been so dominant in our culture, in our families, in our day-to-day interactions, that we automatically diminish our selves, our points of view, our feelings of worth. We are less than men. We’ve been less than men for so long that we struggle to explain why we’re not. When a man tells us that we’re being pushy, whiny, bitchy or defensive, we have a hard time saying: No, I’m only being human. I’m only being as much me as you’re being you. And when a man grabs us somewhere he shouldn’t, somewhere that’s ours, we have a hard time saying: No, I’m more than an object. Your object. Your idea of who and what I am.

What we should do: Kick the asshole in the nutsack, then tell everyone in shouting distance.

What we usually do: Curl into a ball, feeling dirty and flushed with shame.

Right now, dear men, I want you to try something. I want you to imagine that some woman you love, possibly several, at some point in her life had good reason to kick a man hard. But didn’t. Then carried it with her, all of it — the violation, the icky-sticky embarrassment and gnawing anger, the unleashed, phantom kick — for decades.

Picture it. The whole thing. What happened to her then. What happens to her now every time she learns it happened to someone else. And the next time some repellent pig brags about groping a woman, then dismisses it as “locker room” talk, don’t laugh. Don’t brush it off. Don’t ignore every story that comes out in the aftermath, including the latest allegations from violated women who sat quiet for years.

And for God’s sake, men. Don’t vote for him.



This past Monday marked five years since two cops appeared at my door to say that my beautiful, brilliant husband had leapt to his death from a roof near our home. Every year, I try not to dwell on the anniversary of Chris’s suicide. Every year, I fail. chris-in-fedora

At work I hit my deadlines, chit-chatting with colleagues and making my plans for the week, all while carrying the weight of the day inside me. I didn’t want to feel it. Don’t go there, I told myself. I wanted Monday to be normal, the week to be normal, my whole life to be normal.

It isn’t, of course. But whose is? And who doesn’t carry around a pocketful of dates that throb with consequence and pain?

In remembering Chris, I try to focus on the joyous markers and all their many blessings: his birthday, our wedding day, the births of our three children. I try to dwell with gratitude on his life and lingering gifts. I want to remember the light and love in his eyes, the way he laughed and kissed and cracked a grin. The fedoras he used to wear, the bike rides he used to take: I want to remember those, too.

But even when I try hard not to focus on the anniversary of his suicide, it focuses on me.  The 26th of September licks at me like the flickering tongue of a snake.  I think of Chris’s profound sadness, the changes that overtook him in the months before his death and the rupture in the universe — the outrageous, senseless, gaping violation of it –that sucked him away. I think of the long day that followed. An endless day. A day that still feels like yesterday. A day that always will.

And yet a lot has happened in the five years since he died. More life, more love, more loss. I’ve traveled to Ecuador, Edinburgh, Jamaica, Yosemite. Watched one daughter graduate high school, another graduate college. Marveled at a son who turned 16, filled with strength and kindness. Wrote a book about grief. Told a story for “The Moth.” Did a Tedx talk. Buried my second mother and my best friend. Held my baby grandniece — Chris’s baby grandniece, the most perfect creature you’ve ever seen, born to parents who wed on Chris’s birthday. Laughed.

I got laid off from one paper and hired back by another. Started this crazy blog. Took up jazz fiddle. Shoved the piano into the living room (alone). Contemplated getting a tattoo (still contemplating). Adopted two kittens. Made new friends. Turned 49, then 50, then 51, then 52, then 53.

So here I am, a little older and grayer, a little creakier, a little more arthritic in my knees and lower back, but not yet as old or gray or creaky or arthritic as I’ll be tomorrow. In another two years I’ll be 55, Chris’s age when he died. Yet more life will have passed, then more life, then more.

I believe in the eternity of the human soul. I believe in the solidity of human love. I believe that souls are love, and eternity is solid, and no one who spends his life embracing and lifting others is ever truly gone. I’ll see Chris again, of that I’m sure. But not right now. Not right here. My job is to be in this world, going about the business of living with whatever faith and relish I can muster.

So, no, I didn’t want to dwell on the anniversary of his death. But dwell indeed I did, all through Monday and the week that followed, thinking about the permanence of a moment and the transience of a life. Five years are forever. Five years are gone. How strange, that I lived five years without him.

riding the waves

News flash: I ate a fish sandwich in Michigan this weekend.

I had just given a talk at a suicide awareness event on the wide and beautiful shores of Lake Huron, and afterward, feeling reflective, I’d gone back to my bed-and-breakfast to do some writing. But the day was too beautiful, the lure of late summer too sweet, and my itchy Self was too restless to sit still. Self wanted to go for a walk in that state park up the road. Then maybe go for a swim. Then go into the town of Caseville to top off the tank with gasoline. Then get a sandwich. Then see if I could find a pocket of halfway-decent cell service and call my sister-in-law to wish her a happy birthday.

Self said: Let’s do it, girlfriend. Come on. Get up off your ass.

I replied: Okay. But I should probably bring a raincoat.

Self said: No, dummy, you don’t need a raincoat.

So I drove to the state park, parked my little blue rental car and set off for my walk, passing many happy campers along the way. As I walked, it began to rain. Then it began to rain some more. Then some more. Soon I was soaked through.

Self said: You’re already wet. Why don’t you go for that swim, chica?blue-ocean-waves

I thought this was a fine idea, so I crossed the road to the beach. From the top of the stairs, I could see a little group of teenagers frolicking in the waves under a threatening sky. It rained harder. The wind kicked up. I thought: Dark clouds. That’s not good. Self then accused me of being a lame-ass gutless sissy, so what was I to do? I had no choice but to strip off my shorts and t-shirt and swim out into the cresting water.

That’s when I started thinking deep thoughts. Which I should never, ever do. Normally when it happens, I call my brother Danny, but A) I didn’t have my phone on me, and B) I was swimming.

I thought: Waves. Yes. This is my fate. I am lashed and tossed by the fickle undulations of life. Alone!

I thought: I am capable. I am strong. I can ride each wave as it swells. Alone!

I thought: Perhaps I am called to drift thusly on this peaking sea of happenstance and hardship. Alone! Alone! Alone!




Which woke me from my reverie. I suddenly realized that the wind had whipped into something shy of gale-like force, the rain was horizontal, and my shorts were flying down the beach as though escaping years of torment under my regime. I do not believe I was ever in any actual danger. Not in the sense of, you know, dying. Nevertheless, I had clearly incurred the wrath of God and/or Nature, and I raced out of that lake as fast as my flapping middle-aged-lady limbs could muster. After retrieving my liberated shorts, I dressed my wet Self in my wet clothes and drove my little blue rental into Caseville to get gasoline and a sandwich.

There I found a tiny two-pump station, the kind that requires you to go inside, speak to a human being and pay for your gas before you pump it. I was saturated. My long hair was in a crazed Medusa tangle. I went in, grabbed a bottle of water, brought it up to the counter and asked for 10 bucks’ worth of gas.

The man at checkout gave me a deeply questioning look. As if to say: WTF?

Umm, I went for a walk, I said. And it started to rain. And, umm, I swam.

The man’s questioning look gave way to shock. “YOU WENT SWIMMING?!!,” he asked. “IN THIS?!??”

Umm, yes.


Yes, I said. Alone.

There were a few teenagers down there too, I quickly added, as though this were the equivalent of being guarded by a squad of muscular Navy SEALS.

He gave me a look of concern cut with bafflement. And in that moment, I saw myself as he saw me: as a slightly unhinged eccentric dripping the contents of Lake Huron onto the floor, shorts splotched with sand, hair spazzed in a wild gray nimbus.

Self remarked: You look sooooo together right now.

I replied: Thanks!

And in that moment, I remembered to ask about the sandwich. Where to get one?

“Well,” said the man, “if I weren’t working, I’d tell you to come to my house, and I’d make you one.” He smiled. It didn’t quite erase the bafflement and concern, but it came close.

I smiled back. We chit-chatted some more. I told him I was there to give a talk, though I didn’t say what or where or for whom. For some reason he responded to this news with a horrified DON’T TELL ME YOU’RE A PSYCHOLOGIST, and when I said “no,” he gave me a cheerful fist-bump. I said goodbye, pumped my 10 bucks’ worth of gas, then went off to buy a fried pollock sandwich with a cup of broccoli soup.

Self and I ate them both. I called my sister-in-law to wish her a happy birthday, and I didn’t feel alone. No bad poetry resulted.

the need to be heard

At work this morning, I found a couple of long, strange voicemails from a woman in a hospital. Her name was M. She introduced herself as though I knew her, mentioned a story I’d written, then launched into a monologue of startling range, intensity, articulateness,  bold-faced bizarrerie and righteous anger. The first message alone was four minutes long. It was so odd, touched on so many issues and sounded so desperately urgent that I started taking notes at the computer. I’m not sure why. It was singular in its weirdness, unnerving in its distress, and it felt somehow important.


In her outrage, she tacked from the Clintons to EpiPen pricing to Obama to Biden to a few more politicians whose names I couldn’t make out, and she talked about the need to drug-test all of them. I could hear the hubbub of hospital workers behind her; she paused, at one point, to ask one of them a question. Then M invited me to come and spend the weekend with her. “Lots of heads are gonna roll,” she promised.

She talked about lawyers and doctors, and the importance of honesty for both. She talked about China and psychiatry. “Joy to the world, singing and dancing,” she proclaimed, I suspect with irony, then said of the hospital: “If you come in, you don’t get out.” She then ranted against the med students for a while. Can’t trust them to take her blood pressure, she complained. They’re always experimenting.

This went on and on and on. It clearly had nothing to do with me; I was just a random and distant sounding board. The woman simply happened to pick up a copy of the paper. She simply happened to read my story. She simply happened to get to the phone number at the bottom of it, and she simply found herself in close proximity to a telephone. She needed to speak; the fact that I didn’t pick up didn’t matter. What mattered was the crashing torrent of words banked inside her and their crushing need to escape.

After listening to them, I felt sobered by M’s plight. I read back some of her comments and laughed a little, but they were laughs of discomfiture.  It all cut too close to home. I’ve loved and lost too many people altered by depression, anxiety, paranoia and meds, people of presence and intellect and light who slipped into the darkness when life and its capricious mysteries did a number on their minds. They were sane, and then they weren’t. Such darkness can lurk around the bend for any of us, really.

That ranting lady on my voicemail was someone’s altered loved one, a person once lucid and now lost in some dim corridor. She sounded educated, persuasive, charismatic. She was a woman of substance. She had done things. She had known things. She was used to being heard. At some point, she stopped being heard, a victim of life and a system that too often fails to listen to those in pain. But she still needed to speak — who doesn’t? Aren’t we all fighting off loneliness, praying for someone to hear us? So she called up a number she found in the newspaper, and she talked, and she talked, and she talked. All I could do was listen.

not even past


I love the sounds of late-summer nights. As I write this, I’m sitting on my porch in the city of Albany, listening to the endless trill of crickets as a fan whirs above me and moths smack, kamikaze-style, against the light. Thanks to my late husband, who had a fine streak of whimsy in him, the ceiling is sky blue and dotted with clouds. He painted it when the kids were wee, and I’ll never paint it over. To me it means family, and childhood, and picture books, and love. It means warmth, even in the midst of winter.

But sitting out here on a muggy August night, I feel close to my own childhood on a lake in Connecticut. Most every night I would step out onto the porch and hear that same, thrumming chorus of crickets. And the peepers! I loved those beautiful frogs, considered them my pals and even wrote a little poem about them — for the record, one of my least-bad efforts at adolescent versifying. It’s short. So short I can remember it in full, which rather shocks me, given the unmemorable nature of my teenage poetic output and the unreliable nature of my memory banks. It goes like this:

I love the peepers
My sweet froggy souls
As they sing their sweet hearts out
Through mud, gnats and night

They always sang loudest from the tiny creek that trickled beside the house. I would walk past them and down the hill to the lake below, where I dangled my feet from a stone fence above the sand. There I would watch, at peace for a lovely, lasting moment, as bugs dappled the dark water and the distant whine of cars echoed from the opposite shore.

Sometimes my cat Peter, a fine old gentleman with a cracked “meow,” would mosey down and say hello, and we would sit there, we two, contemplating the universe as a soft breeze played across the water. I loved doing that. Doing nothing in the lazy warmth of a summer evening. Just thinking, drinking it all in, looking up at the stars or the haze of a moon, hearing the bark of a neighbor’s dog or the plash and chug of a slow boat creeping back home through the dark.

Those were my late-summer nights. I still have them somewhere, lodged in the back of my mind and the start of my life, keeping me tethered to a long ago that never really left me. As Faulkner once observed, and I am constantly repeating, “The past isn’t dead. It isn’t even past.” Not tonight, as the crickets hum and a dog barks in the distance. Not tonight, and not ever.



trump-towering among them

IMG_4264“Aside from his dramatic glory, Buzz Windrip was a Professional Common Man.

Oh, he was common enough. He had every prejudice and aspiration of every American Common Man . . . . But he was the Common Man twenty times magnified by his oratory, so that while the other Commoners could understand his every purpose, which was exactly the same as their own, they saw him towering among them, and they raised hands to him in worship.”


Buzz Windrip, in case you hadn’t met him, is the fascist demagogue in Sinclair Lewis’ 1935 satire “It Can’t Happen Here,” which pundits have sometimes invoked in the long months since Donald Trump first rose to prominence in this election, and then rose and rose again. It is not the world’s greatest novel, being overwritten, under-realized and saddled with way too much dated lingo for 21st-century eyeballs. Also, Buzz is not an exact fictional counterpart; for one thing, he runs as a Democrat.

But as the Republican National Convention concluded last week, I kept thinking about Lewis’s vision — and his characterization of a power-crazed, racist incendiary who runs for president with the support of a hoodwinked populace.

Windrip isn’t an Everyman, but he does a good job faking it for the disaffected, underserved, frustrated masses. He’s both one of them and a cut far above them, someone who claims the power and the wherewithal to make promises he has no intention of fulfilling: among them, a $5,000 guaranteed income. This is where the parallels with Trump pique and scare the bejesus out of me, because, just like Windrip, this cheap Narcissus has hoodwinked his supporters into believing that he cares about them. He doesn’t. This is what he cares about: Donald Trump.

In “It Can’t Happen Here,” apologists and toadies fall into line, assuming Windrip will moderate once elected, but of course he doesn’t. He creates a militia. He tosses Supreme Court justices in prison. He takes over the media. He establishes concentration camps for dissenters. And so on. I am not saying any of that will happen if Trump is elected; I’m not saying we’re doomed to endure a real-world version of an 81-year-old novel. But we need to pay attention. We need to be vigilant about this democracy of ours. We need to tell ourselves it can happen here, or we’ll be lazy about ensuring that it won’t.

the gifts that live

Today would have been our silver. Twenty-five years ago, Chris and I got hitched at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Washington, Conn., a pretty stone church that my mother liked to call Our Lady of Perpetual Motion.

Three priests presided. Music was provided by one violinist (my mom), one trumpet player, two organists and a gospel choir. A friend snapped photos. My brother-in-law ferried us in Chris’s old Corolla to the reception, which was held in a church basement down the road that we rented for 60 bucks. The meal was pot luck. I’m not kidding. Pot luck. For entertainment, a buddy of ours played guitar. Stout-hearted friends took control of the kitchen, and washed, and washed, and washed.

I think of that day and wonder how we did it. How we managed to fall in love so wildly, so quickly, with such conviction. Four months after our first date, we got engaged. Again I’m not kidding. Four months. Six months after that, we were married. Who does that? How did we know it would stick?

I think of that day and marvel that Chris and I were ever so young. That so many now gone were still alive: my parents, Chris’s parents, my sister Lucy, my best friend Pam. And Chris! How alive he was. How his heart rumbled inside his chest. The man stood so straight he almost fell backward. He hugged me so hard I almost cracked. He smiled with his mouth, his eyes, his whole sturdy person, rocking on his heels with the rhythm of delight.

I think of that day and swell with gratitude. Chris gave me so much. He gives me so much still, his gifts growing with love long past his death. He gave me our three beautiful children. His dear, kind sisters and brothers, their husbands and wives. My three fine nephews. My new great-niece, an angel born three weeks ago.

Chris gave me my home: Had I not married a reporter for the Times Union, I wouldn’t have moved to Albany. He gave me all of my life here. All of my friends and coworkers. All of my neighbors. He gave me the Adirondacks. Camping. Stewart’s Ice Cream. Downhill skiing, which I would never have tried without him.

He gave me the lingering effects of his green thumb. The apple tree at the front of my house. The gardens, front and back. The spider plants, upstairs and down.FullSizeRender

Most of all, he gave me his love and all its light. That lingers, too. He gave me faith in the long-term bond between two people. He gave me an understanding of love as a deep, enduring and sacramental fact, as a truth forged together but greater than the both of us, as something worth fighting for every minute — because the minutes, if we honored them properly, could amass into decades.

And so they did. Twenty years I had with my good, strong, loving, constant husband, a brilliant man whose giant heart roared with the joy of living. He died, but his gift goes on forever.


Like everyone else in the country, I can’t stop thinking about last week’s events. I can’t stop trying to figure out a way to comprehend them — first the senseless deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, then the senseless deaths of Brent Thompson, Patrick Zamarripa, Michael J. Smith, Lorne Ahrens and Michael Krol. Somehow, we’re compelled to make sense of the senseless. We know we can’t, but we also know we have to try. We have to talk. We have to figure out some way to discuss race and injustice, guns and hatred, police and people of color, fear and sacrifice, and the abrupt, outrageous victimhood of everyone who dies at the end of a barrel in these inflamed and disunited states where we now live.

But how do we start? How do we even talk about race when anthropologists tell us it’s a social construct? When our best selves believe that it shouldn’t even matter? Well, here’s how white people can kick things off: by admitting that it does.

Like most Caucasians, I never thought much about being white. Whiteness always struck me as a negative state, a bleached racial canvas defined by what it wasn’t. As a kid I knew I wasn’t black or brown, and I knew that people identified by their blackness or brownness suffered terrible prejudice — but what this meant in terms of my own whiteness, I couldn’t tell you. I knew that my dad was Italian, my mom was English-Scottish-French-German, and I was a mash of both. But white? That meant nothing to me. My parents discussed racism with me and my sister in the language of sweeping moral imperatives and prohibitions: Treat everyone the same. Never use racial epithets or tell racist or ethnic jokes. Speak out when someone else does. But they never spoke to us about being white. If, as they assured us, everyone’s alike, then why bother parsing the differences? There weren’t any, right?

So when Justin Timberlake took heat for tweeting out a tone-deaf “We’re the same” in response to Jesse Williams’ remarks at the BET Awards, I cringed. He was no more oblivious than most well-meaning white folk, all of us adamantly believing and repeating the standard line on race that our well-meaning white parents taught us: That there is no difference. That we’re all alike. That we’re all brothers and sisters. That we’re all born and made of the same essential human stuff.

And so we are. In the eyes of our Creator, there is no difference. But it isn’t the Creator’s eyes (which are, at this point, weeping) that are causing the problem. It’s our eyes, the eyes of society, the eyes that see and pass judgment on a black man with a broken tail light and a license to carry a gun, the eyes that narrow with fear at the guy in the hoodie running an errand, the eyes that regard a brown boy with suspicion when a white one is viewed with confidence and calm.

This is where my parents were wrong. This is what has taken me, your Typical Clueless White Person, far too long to understand: Not everyone is the same. My whiteness means that I’ve never had to worry when I send my teenage son to fetch milk or ice cream in the evening, because his whiteness protects him after dark. My whiteness means that I’ve never had to sit him down for the talk that mothers give their black sons about safety on the streets and dealings with police.

My whiteness means that in every conversation I’ve ever had about race and the failures of our justice system, in everything I’ve ever read about mass incarceration and economic imbalance and the pernicious effects of institutionalized racism, in all of my sympathetic, heartfelt, horrified responses to same, I have never asked how I play into it. How I might be privileged, complicit and complacent. What my whiteness means. Which is, in its way, proof of just how privileged, complicit and complacent I’ve been. I still don’t know what it means, but I know that it means something, and I know that I have to question this something to change the status quo. And maybe that’s a start.

So as we grieve and object to the taking of lives last week, all of us — the whole spectrum of Americans — can hope and pray that more lives aren’t taken in reply. We have to, because we can’t let violence become the conversation. We need to talk, and we need to listen. We need to figure this out together.



I had a little epiphany the other day. Someone was chit-chatting casually with my son, and in the course of this casual chit-chat asked him if Mom was “handy.” He confirmed that indeed Mom is.  When I heard this, I was tickled pink. I was BEYOND tickled pink. I was tickled rose sunsets and bubblegum-flamingos-in-pointe-shoes. I was tickled despite the fact that my late husband, who had worked in carpentry and construction for many years before switching to journalism, HATED HATED HATED the word “handy,” considering it an infantile reduction of his skills.

But I don’t deceive myself. I have no skills. When it comes to repairing things, jury-rigging things, piecing things together and persuading things to fit and function inside my house, I am exercising neither art nor aptitude. Instead I am exercising my inborn propensity for Repairman Avoidance. I am being the stubborn white-haired lady who might not believe she can fix a damn thing but is damn well going to try, anyway.

When the basement trap clogged and overflowed with toilet unmentionables, and I couldn’t reach the Sewage Dude immediately, I went down with a shovel and started to dig out. It was late at night, and it was disgusting. But you know what? As I shoveled and gagged and shoveled and gagged and shoveled and gagged and gagged, I felt a crazed pride welling within me, as in: Yee-haw! I am one sick motha! I can shovel shit! Yes, I can!

The next day, Sewage Dude arrived. Standing by as his finished the job, I engaged him in casual chit-chat.

Me: Soooooo. . . ummm. . . when my husband died, I wrote a book about it afterward called Figuring Shit Out.

Sewage Dude: Really.

Me: Yeah. And this would have been a great chapter.

(Sewage Dude laughs.)

Afterward, it occurred to me that shoveling shit was something my mother would have done — and might have done, for all I know. I think a lot about Mama, a tough, wise, loving lady whose stick-to-it-iveness carried the family after Daddy lost his short-term memory. Exercising her own inborn propensity for Repairman Avoidance, she fixed furniture, plumbing, windows. She painted the downstairs. She built a shower upstairs. When the cushions died, she took apart the living-room sofa and rebuilt it as a simple wood settee. She repaired hings, jury-rigged things, pieced things together and persuaded things to fit and function inside her  house.

I’d always admired this about her, but I’d always assumed her handiness was innate, not acquired. I assumed it was something she’d brought to her marriage that I didn’t bring to mine. But when my son called me handy, the revelation finally hit me: I was just like Mama! Mama was just like me! She hadn’t started out with a hammer in one small fist and a paint can in the other. Life had turned her into a jury-rigger and handy-woman, a stubborn white-haired lady who did what she could to patch things together. She she became what she needed to become. She fixed what broke. She figured shit out, and showed me the way.




that word again

baby fistI’ve been thinking about love in the last few days, itching and twitching with excitement as I awaited the arrival of a new and blessed human into the clan. She finally came, this great niece of mine with her mop of hair and splendid howling maw, and she’s perfect. She’s gorgeous, of course, but that’s not what I mean. I mean she’s perfect in the way that all babies are perfect, as an emblem and ambassador of all that we long for in this life.

She isn’t merely loved. She’s love embodied. I haven’t had a chance to meet her yet and hold her in my arms, but I already love her and know her as love. I already know that she’s a gift, not just to her parents and grandparents and uncles and aunts and great uncles and great aunts and cousins, but to the world. To everyone else. To all of us here, groping through the everyday with faith that it will lead us somewhere with light and meaning.

Love is a verb and an abstract noun. But it’s also a substance, a thing made tangible and real by living, touching and giving of one another — a thing that sparks to life in the arms of our beloved and grows with each new embrace. We rock our babies, and they become toddlers. We kiss our toddlers, and they become schoolchildren. We hug our schoolchildren, and they go on to high school, then college, then jobs, then marriage, then children and grandchildren of their own, making yet more love out of yet more love in an endless, fractal branching of fertility and hope.

My own three babies, no longer small, are the proof and stuff of love. So was my late husband, this new little girl’s Great Uncle Chris, who made our children with me. So was my late sister Lucy, whose death prompted us to have kids sooner than we’d planned. So are all we love who leave too soon, who cease to be present in this world but never cease to be real, because love never ceases to be real. How could it?

This is the lesson in every baby: that nothing, nothing, nothing is more real than love. Not time. Not loss and pain. Not life itself. That first holy moment cradling a child lasts forever. It is forever. People call parental love unconditional, but it’s more than love without condition; it’s love without end. All love is. All babies are, this one included. She’s love, and she’s loved. And all is right with the world.