For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well.
~ Psalm 119: 13 & 14
His footsteps crushed emerald grass as he trotted after his friend. Her orange pony tail bobbed through afternoon sunshine that warmed and welcomed their boisterous laughter. All around, children circled, spun, darted, climbed, and tagged, screeching joy and freedom from the confines of the classroom.
When he reached her, she spun with a wide grin and a squeal of surprise. A small gray creature poked its head out of his half-closed fist, and her eyes rounded with excitement.
“Don’t smoosh him.”
Carefully the six-year old handed the small creature into his friend’s palm and into her heart. She brought the little lizard close to her face, a puckering expression drawing her lips tight. Giggling, she fell back a step as the lizard leapt at her face but missed, landing on her shoulder.
Happiness and pride and affection wound together in his chest like different leaves budding and growing from the same tree branch.
Side by side, arms brushing, they headed toward classmates busy tagging one another and hiding from counting friends. He rushed ahead, calling out classmates’ names, alerting them to the shoulder-treasure he had carefully caught and kept for his special orange-haired friend.
But when he looked behind him, he couldn’t find her. The one who shared his love for creepy crawlies and teasing laughter and chocolate cupcakes.
Behind him, the field was empty. The wind carried only the whisper of sunlight as clouds collected above.
She was missing. His eyes scrunched, searching for his friend, until a small lizard scurried down his arm, a treasure that could not be shared.
“It’s perfect. You look beautiful. ”
The older woman reached forward, tucking a strand of wispy blonde hair under the younger woman’s tiara. The bride turned in a circle, and again, the satin gown catching the light. Tiny beadwork shimmered and shone, announcing a celebration of love. The mother leaned back, swept her hand across her sapphire dress, her fingertips and tissue capturing runaway emotion before it spilled over.
“I wish your father could do this. Could be here. I miss him so much.”
Both women nodded, short, sharp motions, remembering and wishing. Aching inside. The bride looped a slender arm through her mother’s, smoothing a kiss on one rouged cheek.
“I’m ready. I can’t wait to see David.”
Two matching smiles, elegance and beauty and excitement in twined arms and hurried heartbeats. The bride’s gaze eagerly searching for her husband-to-be.
As they walked toward her future, the young woman remembered.
David, opening doors for her in college composition when he hadn’t known her name; inviting her to the summer blockbuster movie three years ago and ending up at a coffee shop talking together for hours afterward; holding her hand and her heart when her dad lost his battle with cancer last year; asking her to be his wife and make a family, together, always together.
The echo of painful silence met them inside the sanctuary.
Long mauve pews sat empty, hymn books neatly packed away for tomorrow’s service. She looked, searched everywhere for her tall basketball-playing fiancé, his dark unruly hair and half-grin that was only for her.
At the front, it was empty.
He was missing. The beautiful bride’s face fell when she couldn’t find the man who would love her for all the days of her life.
“Hey, we don’t got a teacher.”
Pleading brown eyes looked up, for guidance, into the blank face of the busy principal rushing back to the school office. Overhead the second school bell rang, warning students and teachers of the first day’s official arrival.
Principal Sherwin shook his head at the 4th grade boy, mumbling. The words disappeared inside his sport jacket as he walked away, his adult mind elsewhere.
The boy pulled himself back into the loud classroom, nineteen students scattered around, tucked into corners and sitting on desks. A paper airplane swished by, followed by a shriek from a teased girl. Two girls giggled loudly on the floor as he carefully stepped over their legs, their whispers shared and private.
Against the back wall, boys arm wrestled, anger building up until one pushed another’s shoulder and a chair fell back, bringing a nine-year old to the floor with a crash.
The boy shuddered and covered his ears. The noise and chaos were everywhere and inside him. He found his desk, ducked from a bouncy ball passed across the aisle, looked longingly at the teacher’s empty desk.
A powerful desire to learn and know and understand grew steadily inside, and excitement to have this teacher who loved to read and do science experiments and who he had seen speak to kids’ faces and not just to hear herself talk.
And cared, he had seen that she cared.
He waited, willing the empty teacher’s desk to not be empty and the boys to stop fighting and the girls to quiet their shrieking. How he wanted to learn more, to try for college like a teacher did, to get out and away.
But she wasn’t there.
She was missing. He just wanted to learn, but his teacher never came.
We have dear friends with adopted children, and as I watch them play with our boys and see them at church and school, I’m struck by how much joy and pleasure their lives add to ours. I’m beyond grateful for birth mothers bravely choosing life.
But, I ponder the inverse. Their absence? It would be a missing piece, someone created and intended for life, yet not here. Missing. From our lives, our hearts.
And I wonder about those missing lives, 55 million strong, who they were, what they would’ve done, who they would’ve married, how they would’ve affected those around them. They would have been our friends, spouses, neighbors, teachers, parents.
This is for them.