February 24, 2020
Carnival Season. Salvador Bahia, Brazil
Outside, down in the streets below, the world is dancing, filling every corner with sound, joy and physical affection. Above, in our nest I am in a focused embrace with my very sick child trying to teach him about comfort and care. Trying to teach myself.
Childhood is a series of firsts. Blessed with good health, his first serious illnesses were routine and common. But they are still first, tests, new journeys that in the end, however brief, create new people.
Viruses, most science agrees, are not living organisms because they don’t think, create or consume energy. They infect the body with an efficient chaos. They take over and change your whole program. But they don’t really “live” themselves. They are like vacant androids designed it seems, to confuse life at its most basic level. And the body itself, the ultimate illusion of wholeness, a complete being, so perfect that it assumes to rule all others- is actually porous to a fault. A collection of spaces between even its most tiniest elements, staying together in a form distinguishable enough to be loved and hated; and systematic enough to embrace subjectivity.
We are together and I am watching him experience this exquisitely difficult part of living. When he desperately awakes between fevers I want him to see my face. I tell him, “I’m here. We are crossing this river together. I know you are afraid to be so weak. Your life is a celebration of living. And this confusing challenge won’t change that." I ask him “What would you like to do to get better: drink water, sleep, a hug, a kiss, a story, or some music?" He proudly chooses what he needs and before the last notes of “The Path of the Wind” play on the bluetooth speaker, we find ourselves a little closer to the other side of the river.
The nest we are in is a complete meditation in peace. Like me, he prefers the room dark. A sliver of light on the nightstand with our healing supplies. A liminal space meant only for coming apart and reassembling. Within each new moment he learns more and more that I will be there when his eyes open and he feels fear from the chaos in his body. When the new pain feels like it won’t end, I’m right there to remind him, “This is your journey across a river. It won’t be easy but we will do it together." He can rest confident to choose how he wants to care for himself and that he is never alone. I hope this is how we make healing a language.