I took The Minions (my 7 and 8 yr old foster girls) to the theater today because they had a day off of school. I did it for the same reason every parent drops $40 to take kids to the big screen… I actually wanted to see the movie playing. I’m not a total failure as a parent. I’m not the parent that brought my kids and toddler to the PG-13 flick I wanted to see and let them run amuck and have nightmares. I saw a very funny preview to the new cartoon STORKS. I thought to myself, “Oh… this is going to be hilarious!” Turns out it was just another cartoon that ended with me sobbing uncontrollably. Just a hot mess of feelings.
I honestly wonder sometimes, with movies like UP or TINKERBELL AND THE NEVERBEAST or even INSIDE OUT, if the animators and producers set out to have one moment that is far over the kids’ heads… but reduces unsuspecting parents into puddles of pathetic. Is there a job at Disney and Dreamworks: seeking sadist that will make sure that cartoons have at least 5 minutes of the most gut wrenching, deep cutting issues that adults face BUT won’t impact the target audience.
No spoilers here. Well maybe a few…
The new animated offering, from the same people that did the LEGO MOVIE, starts with a wink and a nod to parents on explaining to children how babies are made. Storks bring them, of course. Well, at least that is one way you can get them. You can write a letter… like children do to Santa. Describe your baby and ask for the storks to make you one and deliver it. Only, babies are kind of a hassle so storks don’t do that anymore. They got rid of babies and now they just sip really good wine, catch up on their shows, and go to Europe every two years. Oh wait! That is what humans do.
The storks have evolved into a feathered Amazon.com. But through a series of quirky events one more baby has to be delivered and hilarity ensues. But…
Toward the end of the movie they brush past something that makes perfect sense… and I should have seen it coming… but one minute I was laughing so hard I was embarrassing The Minions and then BAM!
Before the world could catch up to the announcement that Storks don’t make (in their magical baby factory) and deliver babies anymore… letters were still coming in. There is a tank… of millions of letters… each one representing a family. Moms and Dads who were trying to start a family. Boys and girls aspiring to be brothers and sisters. Kids drawing pictures of what their family would look like with one more child, one more beautiful baby. Letters still sent in desperate last ditch efforts to something they know doesn’t work anymore. It was just a brief camera shot of four glass walls filled with descriptions of all the things those children were supposed to grow up to be.
A tank of futures stored as junk mail.
I lost it.
I thought I was going to be sick. You know that feeling as well as I… maybe not for the same reasons but the feeling is about the same. Your eyes water and you reflexively scrunch your face and put your hand up like a visor. This sick sensation starts between your lungs and starts to work out to your finger tips so that you just ache all over. It rises so fast like a wave that lifts you off your feet and (if you’re lucky) you can choke it right back down and you don’t get swept away.
But then those families started to receive all their belated deliveries and I couldn’t take it anymore. The looks on their animated faces were too human. I shielded my eyes and pulled down my hat but I was shaking as I wept in that sticky theatre. My girls were giving me questioning looks but I didn’t say anything. I couldn’t. What could I say?
When my wife and I failed to deliver the first two times we were pregnant… it wasn’t because of a clerical error or an unread letter. Our prayers for a child are not in a box somewhere collecting dust. All our fantasies about their hair color… their names we talked about that we dare not use now… all the things we imagined they’d like or be good at… none of that is waiting somewhere only to be found and fulfilled by huge pigeons that live on a magical mountain. They are gone.
So I grieved today.
And I’m not posting this for pity and I’m not mining for condolences. My grief isn’t fresh. It isn’t muted by time or statistics either. “Miscarriages happen to a lot of folks.” I know. But murder statistics don’t give the victims back to their families, commonness doesn’t breed comfort, and regularity doesn’t relegate pain. It doesn’t matter how many weeks along or how many toes are already formed. Even if the beat was never found on a machine or recorded in an office the heart it came from was mine to love. I’m not mourning a vessel but the soul and the future that was stolen. I don’t need to rationalize away my pain. I tried that. Sometimes you just have to feel it. It is what keeps us human.
So I grieved today.
I wept and didn’t apologize or explain it. It rose up, crested, and then passed just as quickly. But I will never forget… and I don’t ever want to be numb to it. It is not as bad when you just stop fighting and let it wash over you. The trick is not to avoid it but just to get it over with because it is coming in whether you want it or not. I still feel the soreness and the aftermath as I’m writing this, but not the actual blow.
The light at the end of the tunnel is that the pain is not like it was. There is healing. There is no blame, and the mercy of God and the love of Jesus cradle me and wrap me in the blessings of what is… so I don’t have to live in what could have been.
So I will pray for you all tonight. The fellow travelers that hurt and sting and smart at every cartoon movie, every baby shower, every niece and nephew, every unfair unwanted pregnancy that someone else gets…
and together we will grieve the Undelivered.