Touch: The Journal of Healing



Copyright © 2015

Touch: The Journal of Healing

All rights reserved.

The Ache of Loving: 19 Days of Life and Death in Munich

    by Sei Tapfer

My parents have always seen faces in things. They see them in grey shadows of cumulus clouds, and in the dappled light on the curtains. Sometimes these faces emerge among the clusters of stars, forming new constellations. When you look for them, they are everywhere. They are signs that life is all around, quietly facing us.

I am everywhere too.

My life began in November, in Munich. Outside, church bells clanged in a cacophony that could be felt all over town. It was the lull before Christmas. My parents strolled along the river in the English Garden, talking about me. Who would I be? What would I be called?

The weather was mild, and myriad orange and yellow leaves weakly clung to the trees. They glowed so brightly, they looked like they were on fire. They gently detached from their branches and floated to the ground. I am one of those large leaves, gentle and free.

When I came into the world, it was very unexpected. It was an urgent upheaval of all that I knew. I gasped my first breath, and I let out a cry.

My parents watched my delicate movements and my gentle breathing - these were the signs of a beautiful new life. But rapid changes happened inside me, starting and stumbling. These were the experiences of a life which is tenuous. I was a person too young and too vulnerable even to be called viable. 

My time in this world was measured in days and hours. Every day and every hour, my parents came to be with me.They didn’t sleep. They told me stories and held my hands and feet. My family came to meet me, and I felt their abundant love.

My path out of this world lasted one whole evening. In one instant my body changed precipitously, and my parents heard the news they could not fathom.

I was wrapped in soft blankets and carried to my mother’s arms. Hours passed. Then my father held me. I heard my parents’ voices, shaking and pleading. I felt fingertips stroking my face. I felt a forehead leaning gently against mine. I furrowed my brow. My parents held me. I was carried through.

Just as my path into the world was a shock to those around me, my departure caused disbelief and despair.

Outside, the church bells clanged. The air carried a new chill. The trees had completely shed their brilliant cloaks of yellow and orange.

I saw my parents, a despondent couple. They couldn’t shake the sterile, sweet smells of my hospital room. Plagued by fear, they returned to the English Garden.

A gaunt man in black clothing and buckled, heeled shoes brushed past them. They watched keenly as he stumbled into the woods. Suddenly they felt the lure of dark possibilities: maybe they weren’t meant to be parents; maybe their lives were ending too. I told them not to listen.

At dusk they visited a church, anticipating quietude - hoping for solace. They were surprised.

They saw boisterous children spilling out of the pews; babies in their mothers’ arms; toddlers squirming in strollers. They all babbled during the Lord’s Prayer. It was a St. Martin’s Day mass for children. I was there.

This is when I told them:

We are not meant to understand everything about our existence, but when you look for them, God shows us undeniable signs that explain what life really means.

The truth is, during my days and hours here, I lived many lifetimes. This was not apparent in the fragility of my young body. This is apparent in the way you feel me today.

I heard your voices; I gripped your fingers; I felt your phenomenal, fierce love. God showed you that life is not mere survival. Life is loving something more than survival. The ache you feel – the ache of love - is why I lived, and it is why I am still alive.

I am among the faces that you see. I am in the clouds, and in the glimmering, dappled light. I am in the night sky; I am also in the children giving you hope; I am the brilliant leaves that gently float away between fall and winter - between life and death.

Just look, and you will see the signs. I will always be there with you.

© 2016  Sei Tapfer

Sei Tapfer lives in California with her husband and their dog. Their son, for whom this piece is written, is their angel and their first love.