Opinion | A New Mother, an Old Mother, a Love Story

“I was afraid,” she told me. But then a chaplain came and talked to her and my father, and finally, she told my father: no more. She told him he could still hope, and she would hope, too, for a miracle. But in the meantime, she said she felt ready and she needed him to be with her. She said her angel had been in her room all week; she could see him as clearly as she could see me now. I thought of how in Cambodia death is just the end of a cycle, making space to start all over again.

I helped her to the toilet and she pointed to her C-section scars, all four of them. Then she asked if I had one. I unbuttoned my jeans, pulled them down slightly. “They’ve gotten better, haven’t they?” she said. This is where we meet, women and our bodies. I told her the story of my daughter’s birth in Bangkok and she said, “I like that story, Rache.” I sank down to my knees on the floor, laid my head on her hospital bed beside her hip. She put her hand on me.

Then she said, “Can I talk to you about the Lord? I just have to because he’s my life.”

I nodded.

Jesus was on her right side at that moment and her guardian angel was on her left. She could see them. They didn’t talk, except once to say that everything would be all right. She just wanted me to know she could see them, her angel and her Jesus, that they had come to help her on her journey to wherever and whatever came next.

I nodded, listening. I believed her. Of course I did. We travel with our ghosts. Who better to lead us to what comes next? Our next life, our heaven, the birth of a daughter, a new mother, an old one.

I understood then. She wasn’t telling me a story of Christianity or faith or spirituality. She wasn’t even telling me a story about God. She was just telling me a love story. And I was part of it.

Rachel Louise Snyder (@RLSWrites), a professor at American University, is the author of the forthcoming memoir “Women We Buried, Women We Burned.”

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