Val spent her eighth birthday with a fever skipping between 105F and 108F. She also puked, had some very explosive diarrhea and many long, loud farts. She was weak, her stomach hurt like crazy and there was nothing to be done about it. She had a strep throat infection on top of gastroentritis.
Still, she did not forget to ask for her little clay pig. She did not forget. She wantd me to unlock that glass display cabinet, take that pig out, and hand it over to her possession.
You see, 2007 was the year of the pig in the Chinese caldendrical cycle. It was not just the year of the pig, but the year of the golden pig. very special. Couples flocked to get married in that auspicious year and couples tried in earnest to bear a child that will be born in that once-in-a-lifetime-very-lucky year. Although we said we would have a third child, our plan was (and I had to snicker at myself here) to start trying towards the end of 2007. Well, I was already pregnant before 2007 even started. Bur it was ok, with all the excitement over the auspicious porcine year, we thought, it all turned out well after all. (except it did not)
So, I saw this idea in a magazine about making clay pigs with children to celebrate the porcine year. Cool idea! Neat craft! So, we bought air-dry clay and set about to make a family of pigs- papa pig, mama pig, pig girl one, pig girl 2, and of course baby pig. It was not as easy as the magazine article promised, just slapping a few shapes together. There was a lot of groaning and complaining, and we had some fantastic-looking creatures that did not looked the way Nature had intended. Still, we managed to get the little pig family together, and painted them, with a lot of fun.
After the paint dried, I proceeded to put the pigs into our display cabinet. Except Val protested that she did not want her pig (that is, pig girl 1) in the cabinet- it belonged to her and she should keep it herself. We explained about not wanting it to break, how it looked nicer, this little family of pigs together in the cabinet and all the usual nonsense, and in the end she consented that chances are she could break it but we have to give her pig to her when she turns eight.
(Although I did secretly think she might forget, or she might come around to wanting to see the cute pigs, all five of them, huddled together, never to be separated.)
Oh, but she did not forget. Not even when she was so sick, we were getting ready to go to ER. Clearly 108F fever did not burn her brains, as we feared, but instead gave her clarity of mind to remember and demand that pig from us.
I unlocked the cabinet, removed the pig, and gave it to her. Later I saw she had left it carelessly on a table.
My grandma has said so often, Empty hands come, empty hands go.
Life, when I come to think of it, is sometimes so ridicuous in how we gain something in order to lose it. How we acquire something only to lose it. Like, we are born to die. We mature into (hopefully useful) adults and then deteriorate into senile, bothersome creatures. We grow up in order to age and die. We learn, and forget. Flowers bloom, to wilt. And so on, and so forth… … Life is really about learning to let go. To learn to let go, first we need to possess, to gain, to have. Then, we have to let it go. We will find loved ones, and then be separated, by death or otherwise. We acquire dear possessions, only to have them tarnish, break, or lost in the shuffle of life.
Life is a series of letting go.
(With Val’s uprising, Sophia decided that she wants to have her pig too, except she wants it when she is ten.)
So, while I initially had cunning arguments to persuade Val to keep the family of pigs together. I let go, gave it to her, allow life to dictate the fate of that little clay creature.
Now in the cabinet stands papa pig, mama pig, pig girl 2, and baby pig.
(And one day, it will just be papa pig, mama pig, and baby pig. And I guess it will stay that way.)
Baby pig, of course, represents Ferdinand. And so much more.
It was our idea of our family complete. It was our longing to experience what it would be like to have a little boy in our family. It was the dream of so many things, crushed.
Now, it is a reminder of, so many things. Of our family tragedy, of the horror, the grief, the pain, the long ache that lingers. It is a reminder that we cannot plan, that we have no control, and that we gotta let go.
So, when I handed the pig over to Val, it was also an informal ceremony of letting go. I let go of my dream of a beautiful birth in water, surrounded by Nature. I let go of the idea of having a son. I let go of the original plan of having three children being just perfect and wonderful. I let go that Ferdinand cannot be made to stay. I let go, I let go. I let the dreams go poof, I let everything unravel… memories flooded back, tears surged.
In some ways, that handing over found me some peace. But first my entire being was flooded with pain, anger, sadness, deep grief, intense longing and so many questions and internal screams.
Then I realized it was a chance to let go.
So I did.
I know I have much more to let go, in so many aspects of my life. And I know I have yet to truly let go the ache of Ferdinand’s absence (and truly, the idea of impermanance), but I am making small steps. tiny, tiny, tiny steps.