We stood on a green hill on a brisk day, two small sisters in coats, singing two-part harmony into a tiny grave. Our preacher dad had asked us to sing the one about children and their heavenly father at the burial of a baby, stillborn to a couple named Story.
But this was a story I couldn’t crack. How could a baby be born with no breath or life, how could a baby be dead, but still, born?
I looked at the mother’s eyes as the two of us sparrowed on about how life and death would never sever—I knew it meant separate—children from God’s strong arms.
It was nice to get paid for singing, but I didn’t want to ever be dead and flourishing in some faraway holy courts. Each night I prayed uneasily that If I died before I woke the Lord would take my soul— God suddenly materializing in the dark room, like a frightful thief in the night, to spirit some unseen part of me up and away.
I liked my real home on the prairie. And I wanted my story: all babies born unstill into their fathers’ arms, everyone mounting green hills unwounded by grave dirt, all of us singing an old, old story and breathing, breathing, grace all around us like fresh air.