Rice a Roni. When I was a child, game shows used to give a year’s supply of Rice a Roni (the San Francisco treat) to the runner-up, the contestant who did not win a Chevrolet, a trip to Hawaii or a refrigerator. In some of my private thoughts, the ones which make me feel ashamed of my anger and lack of gratitude, I liken Susanna’s memorial projects to Rice a Roni, the consolation prize. I have survived and made it into the game. Instead of a going home with an intact family, I am consoled with kind words and donations. But this is only a small part of the truth.
Susanna’s Angel Tree. I do not exaggerate when I say it is full of magic and healing. I have not counted how many angels we have, and I do not even know all of the people who brought and sent them. But every one emanates the depth of someone’s love, a person somewhere who has chosen to remember Susanna and think about her, and to contribute beauty to the world. In a world full of pain and horror and loss, we need each other to believe in beauty and love. I wish that we could all hold hands and sing, like in Whoville, and make it so that no one’s child will ever die again and need to be memorialized. We cannot. But maybe we can try to make the world a little bit kinder and better. Maybe through kindness, one less sick person will open fire on children or parents. Maybe someone will be able and inspired to go to medical school and find a cure for brain aneurysms, or cancer. I have come to believe that angels are real beings who offer inspiration, prodding us and cheering us on as we wander and dream. Maybe if we acknowledge them, we can help each other to hear them and truly listen to what they know.
In other dimensions, there is no death. As painful as it is for me to live without my daughter here, I believe I will be with her again. I wish she were here for Christmas, to decorate and choose gifts for others and construct strange holiday offerings in frosting, paint and glitter. She is here in the way she can be, and our separation is temporary, like a calendar season.
My son has looked at the boxes of angels yet to be hung and expressed jealousy. Why does Susanna have so many ornaments? Beneath this probably lies anger and sadness that she has left him. I want my son to live to be one hundred, at least. I want him to be able to shine out all of the understanding and strength which has grown in his heart from the very beginning. He has so much to offer, as all of everyone’s children do. January will be seven years since he first laid eyes on his sister, at fifteen months old. His father led him to the basinet in the hospital. His smile of recognition and joy lit up the room. Their love and bond was old already, and no doubt spans eternity rather than five short years. This business of earth life and death, so rich and full and important, this is not all. We have barely glimpsed the prizes.