The Way of Life | Corinne Natalia

A life began May 14, a little before seven am—the monochrome drab of COVID lockdown scribbled over my daily routine. Cycling through unread emails, my mind slouching in the humdrum. But life wormed through my screen with prospective roommate’s message as a facade. A digital picture, bloated and blurry, with only the partial edge visible, popped onto my screen. The email reminds me now of a burrito eagerly stuffed and overflowing with beef juice and sour cream. Sloppy, but few reject a good burrito. Several scrolls down led me to her elated message:

“Okay, I’ve been trying to wait, but I’m so excited! My nephew was born this morning! Guess where I’ll be a lot of weekends!”

Automatically I congratulated her. A stingy response for the climax of a couple’s patient nine-month labors in hope. They sailed through waves of anxiety, uncertainty, and anticipation only moored in hope. They sent up prayers for their firstborn, foraged for cribs, commiserated in Lamaze classes and festered in their impatience during grandparent visits. A little boy clumping through the ceiling of an ant mound is nothing compared to the rapid scramble of first-time parents eyeing the due date. Yet, still, there is no certainty. Hospitals only gave higher success rates—not guarantees. Preparation kicks such fears aside. They welcomed someone so brand-new in a cycle so old.

But he’s just my roommate’s nephew. How could I understand the significance of such a miracle?

Thus, came Birth.

Continuing into May 15, beginning around eight forty-five morning. I shifted covers over myself and onto to my mother as we waited for the funeral to begin. The laptop blared out fuzzy light and shuddered from the sunlight tiptoeing in over our neighbor’s house through our window. The sun wanted to know who left its embrace.

Her name was Thizbe, and only a handful could attend her funeral. The rest made do with a screen.

Her father read tributes to her. Her mother choked up in remembrance. Her brother compared her to a rose.

Others remembered her love of dance, some of her care for animals, and a few her pure enjoyment of food. All held a kaleidoscope of memories. Energy laced with mindfulness cascaded down her spring-coiled hair and spiraled into her toes.

Thizbe. A name like breathing in strawberry sunbeams as thistles nuzzle your cheek.

Thizbe. Storytellers evidently dress this earth to their liking because someone draped a sullen robe of foreshadowing over such a radiant name. The Greeks stained the name in grief, but the tragedy piercingly resounded in Shakespeare.

Thizbe died at twenty-two. Gratefully, none of Ovid’s forlorn and improvident lovers reached their caressing limbs over this tale. A hidden heart condition overcame her while she jogged beside her younger brother.

No one ever diagnosed her; neither she nor her family knew. She exhausted all her strength and never recovered. Even though they flew back in time on the soonest flight they could, her parents missed her passing.

If she resided in fiction rather than flesh, an AP English student interrogating the story for symbolic meaning would rip it into the surrounding details. They would slobber over the minute connections between her sunny disposition and her heart—a twist on a Story of an Hour. Metaphysical literary analysis remains too crude a lens for inspection.

No one plastered her from their mind to a page. No strings braided in a wordsmith’s imagination and no phrases knotted into eloquent thoughts strung her up in paragraphs. No daydreamer caught her from the clouds of his petty musings and condemned her in his campfire yarns.

She lived full of contradictions and anomalies and idiosyncrasies and mediocrities through the breath of God.

Authors write for millennia but never could a character come close to the richness of any person, least of all her. If any face conviction for watering her down, turning a memory into a lowly shadow, I am guilty. But in my defense or confession, pre-mortem, I only heard her once.

She sang with her family at our church for Christ’s birth. Our interaction ended in that snug, humble sanctuary with a song. I cobbled everything else together from the testimonies of her loved ones and the impression left on me. What an impression.

She was taken too soon…too soon. For what?

For the trembling voices of her parents and the shaking hands of her brother. The question probably sears like an iron. I couldn’t help wondering, though—my logic meddling with my emotions. Leaning against mom, I, safe and breathing, snuggled on our couch as her memorial service continued.

If the Creator did not deceive, then she must have lived fully in the numbered days God lent her. However, such thoughts do not tenderly embrace an aching mother’s heart or sit quietly with a father’s anguish. Instinctively, such thoughts appear like a briar of thorns growing among rocks. Heavy and sharp. Yet, in her twenty-two years with such a vital, bursting life that she generously shared, what did she lose? Everyone dies.

In the end, poetry won. They buried her in a meadow, silently watching a lake. On her tombstone, they inscribed:  

She moved through the world like she danced- freely sharing joy, laughter, light, encouragement, faith, and love. She is radiant.

So came Death.

Ending at around three am in the morning, on May 16. Mom and I again plotted back to the living room couch and snapped our computer open. Merrier moods abounded despite sleep deprivation. My best friend’s brother met a girl. Quirks and passions matched and began to intertwine like braids of a rope. A gem and a one-question interview sealed the contract of souls, and they chose to have their hybrid wedding in the spring.

Synthesizers transcribed the sounds digitally and repeated them back to mom and me. Pairs, dusting the sanctuary of emptiness, waltzed down the aisle two-by-two into pews—not nearly so divinely inspired nor impressively crafted as an ark, but suitable for their purpose. At attention on either side, bride’s maids swathed in purple, and groomsmen resembling an uptown boy band fizzled out from consciousness as the bride wriggled side to side in ecstasy between her father and brother.

“Who gives this woman to be married?”

“We dooooooo.”

The drone came out low like cow bellows and laughter from the standing congregation resounded through the hall. Humor already echoed deep into this marriage. Music pulled everyone to their feet, and they turned their eyes to heaven—up to the screen with words scrolling down about God’s faithfulness. The monitors showed the lyrics, but the couple looked at God.

The pastor prayed, and the couple inclined their faces to one another, foreheads gently kissing. Tenderness brimmed then overflowed and leaked out our computer screen like two fountains too full, yet unable to keep from cutting off or spilling out onto everything. The couple only celebrated vague expectations of hardships or joys.

Anger, frustration, heartache, laughter, mundanity, encouragement, taxes, vacations, ministry, embraces, crashes, heights, promises, all wafted around them waiting to land a few months later. A good beginning, yet everything in between would make the difference. But of course, what are vows for?

“I take you to be my lawfully wedded wife (husband). To have and to hold from this day forward… to cherish to lead our home in Christ. To rub your feet (make you coffee), to empower (encourage) and provide (support) for you, to treasure you above all others, till death do us part according to God’s Holy ordinance, and thereto I pledge myself to you.”

Work, true work, began every moment after those words.

So came Love.

One day, will I be the same? Maybe I’ll marry; I know I will die. My faith assures me I will celebrate a wedding once I am dead. I feel guilty because I only wrote on youth. Wisdom’s quiet though. I never immersed myself in the engulfing wellspring of maturity you find from drowning in the years God’s given. But I want the same time-touched waters floating gratefully in my grandmother’s eyes and whispering in her smile. I want to know. I want to understand.

I’m not privy to that experience yet, and sometimes that’s how life goes. Mine spent three youthful days in spring—a birth before a death, a death before a marriage.

So continues life.

©2021 Corinne Natalia
All rights reserved


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