09 December, 2011


My daughter doesn't miss much. She is a champion at games where you compare two pictures and list what is different from the first to the second. So I wasn't surprised when she asked about the hand prints even before she was in the kitchen. Noticing them from the dining room she used a one word question, "Hands?" At first I wasn't sure what she meant, it had been two weeks since I had come back from the deathbed of my GAL child. And the drama that followed as the biological mom bullied her way into the directors office and demanded his body be embalmed and released to her rather than the foster mom distracted me from the memory of the child himself. After numerous phone calls and e-mails I was told there was a meeting set up for December 21st to find out how this happened. My daughter works in a school that this child may have attended, had he been returned to his biological mom. I described the nurses making the hand prints, watching them manipulate his hands, one by one, with the tubes and restraints, onto the ink pad and then to the paper. After repeating the process several times. The nurse kindly asked if I would like one. As she handed it across the table, I glanced at the form on the bed. In a few minutes the doctors would come in with the respiratory therapist and remove the tube that had kept him alive for the past two weeks. The last time I had attended a death I was struck by the simplicity of the process. It was just as Sogyal Rinpoche described: you exhale. And you don't inhale again. The biological mom keeps declaring her love for this child to anyone who is willing to listen. Yet over and over I see people so caught in their addictions and compulsions that love, if this is love beyond ownership, is not enough to keep their kids safe and healthy. I watch my daughter plan her wedding, pursue her teaching license, become a dog owner. With gratitude I listen to her in my kitchen near the bookshelf which holds my various mementos, including the hand prints of a dead child, a child I feel I may have failed. But for the moment, even in face of my possible failure, I feel complete.

1 comment:

Denise Emanuel Clemen said...

I had never heard of the handprints being taken. It's a sweet, sweet thing.
Love to you and yours.