Once a newborn struggled with post-partum depression. The searing light of the delivery room after months in dark serenity was bad enough, but add to this the sudden exile from a warmth that reached back to the very beginning of the newborn’s world. Plus the shock of finding itself cut off and alone in a strange, strange place, then passed around by terrifying creatures with toothy grins. And before that, a hard slap on the backside and then the sound of somebody weeping for joy at it all. For joy! Amid this jarring rush of sensations, the newborn reached out to reclaim the soothing equilibrium that was all it had ever known but found its hands resisted every command, flailing in useless fists at the air. While its own cry, an anguished wail that should have drowned out both tears of joy and the chorus of goo-goo coos from every side was no protection whatsoever, least of all from this bristly face thrust against its own cheek with lips puckered and rough. The time of being a mere zygote and then no more than a tiny embryo had been paradise compared to this, what with the sum of creation in every cell and futures as varied as life itself! But now? Here? When had all that promise been reduced to the single lifetime now awaiting the newborn? Had this moment come on little by little, with alternative “what might have been” lives falling away here and more lost there? Or did an all-or-nothing, take-it-or-leave-it point of no return abruptly declare, “this is your life and no other”? “No, no, no, no!” the newborn wanted to scream, had it only known how to form the word. In the midst of this anguished panic, however, it gradually became aware of a line of figures stretching away in the air before it, from toddler to adolescent to adult to shuffling ancient. Where had they come from? Where were they going? Amid a distant blur, the newborn could just make out luminous patches in which more of these wraith-like forms appeared, disappeared, and then appeared again, each beckoning to it before walking on into the shadows once more. There was a calming appeal in their steady advance through darkness and light. Seen from where the newborn lay, their ultimate disappearance beyond the last, faint light was certain. And yet the march towards that certainty, which could have been a continual, desperate clutching at every futile hope of return had instead a quiet dignity about it. A look of trusting repose slowly spread across the newborn’s face. Awaiting it must be a journey that wasn’t its alone. Beginnings and endings gave birth to each other and would continue to do so far beyond the last glimpse of the vanishing figures. Life was not an individual venture, however much one’s own existence might suggest such was the case. Nor was death. The eventual loosing of all the atoms currently on loan to the newborn from distant stars would only mark a stage in their long odyssey, each rebonding along the way with atoms from other stars for an ever-renewed promise as long as the universe lasted. “This is your life and no other.” The newborn smiled for the first time and reached out towards the waiting smiles in the delivery room.
Copyright © 2020 by Geoffrey Grosshans