When I was pregnant with our first child, Sam wanted to know if the baby would be a boy or a girl. He was going to be happy either way; he just wanted to be prepared. As first-time parents, we harbored the fantasy that we could be prepared for such things as babies and parenting.
Two years later, when I was expecting our second child, Sam again wanted to know the child’s sex, but by then, I had warmed to the idea of not knowing. On the day of the ultrasound, the baby’s legs were crossed such that the doctor could not determine the sex, and off I waddled with my hidden child safely in utero. I didn’t schedule a follow-up ultrasound. The baby would let us know in due time.
Grieving, too, demands its own not-knowing, without the benefit of a date on which all will be revealed. I didn’t know why Sam ended his life, what had seemed impossible to him, how he had descended so deeply into despair. I didn’t know what I had missed, where I had failed, whether I could have stopped him, how our children and I would be without him. At some point, I would have to learn to live with these many unknowns. And I did.
There was one thing I did know. In those dark days of intense grief, somebody was shining a light our way with a simple but powerful message: “You are seen. You are loved.”
Over the course of the next week, we received nightly offerings. Always simple — six apples, seven clementines, eight packets of gum — each adorned with the signature silver ribbon, the white square note and the childlike handwriting.
It could have been a coordinated effort, a family project, or one delightfully clever friend. I didn’t know and no longer wanted to know. Something about the not knowing appealed to me. I began to corral the boys in the kitchen at the back of the house in the evenings, bribing them with dessert or an extra chapter of “The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane,” so that the anonymous giver could remain so. I made it my mission to protect their sacred, generous act.