The flames are dancing again.

They sway softly, reaching up just enough to reveal blues and greens before settling down into the rhythm of orange fused with a yellow-white, burning my eyes as I stare.

There is a sudden leap in my heart as one little flame tries to escape and jumps off its wick carelessly.  The air crackles as the tiny flame realizes, too late, that it cannot defeat the oil-filled glass pulling at it relentlessly.  It falls back into the oil, diminishing in size and, defeated, meekly resumes its dance.

My heart, aroused by the plight of the dancing ball of fire, falls to the ground and shatters into a million wrenching cries.

I am screaming silently as I smile at my children and spin the dreidel, round and round and round…

I am mutely deafening the heavens as I sing songs of latkes and maccabees and kiss the kids goodnight…

I am nearing a pitch that can pierce through my silence when I break.

I turn towards my husband.  In a whisper, I bare my soul.

“I miss him.”

And then the dam breaks and I am filled with all the sounds I never got to hear.

The thin wail at his birth…the howl at his bris…the hungry whimpering at night…the coos of content in the early mornings…the pouting whine at naptime…the robust cries of triumph as he climbs up a stair…the sweet sound of peaceful breathing…


The screams emanating from my soul are not enough to drown out the memories of the beeps and whirs an incubator makes at it labors to keep its occupant alive.  And through the noise, I can hear what underdeveloped lungs sound like when they are working too hard…not hard enough.  And no matter where my mind takes me and what I use to try to change directions I can still hear…the silence…when there are no machines…no breath…no life.

The first year, I was pregnant again.

I watched the flames and thought of him and prayed it would be different.

The second year was harder.  I looked at my little girl and thought I saw him dancing around her.  When the flames died, he slipped away.

When the flames danced in our window again, I thought of him and slipped away to the bathroom, scissors in hand.  My hair fell into the sink but it didn’t stop my tears.

At the four-year mark, I wrote.

He would have been four years old…instead, he is buried on a mountain with other sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, uncles and aunts; forever a tiny babe.

He is happy there and well taken care of.  He does not feel the pains of growing up.  He does not suffer from physical ailments.  He does not lack anything.  He is safe.

He needs only my love.

I love my little boy so much.  I know where he is.  I want to go there.  I need to be good enough to go there.  I will do everything in my power to see him again.

It was suddenly there again.  The lights.  I wrote again.

It’s this time of year again and I’m thinking of you…wondering…how you’ve been.

Wishing you could see me now…look at me with those big, big eyes…maybe even smile.

It’s late…you should have come home from school long ago…I ache to see you burst through the door.

The bag we would have picked…together…slung over your slight frame…weightless.

Your face would have lit up…as you held out…the special treat your Rebbe gave to you…for Chanukah.

Chattering about your day…as I prepare your supper…and tend to the others…you flit about my mind.

And I miss you.

Five is a big boy now…I remind you gently to let me go…big boys know better.

You fade away from me…but cling…your tiny hand grasping…my pinky…forever.

And then we lit the lights again.  And I waited.  For eight days.  I held out.  Until I saw the little tiny flame fighting to break free and I broke down and wrote again.

It’s been…six years…filled with love…joy…happiness…hardships…and longing…for you.

My happily-ever-after…standing before the lights…watching the flames dance…to the beat of the perfect little life inside me…dies with the last lick of fire…and left a hole…where you used to be.

The day you broke away approaches…

I am not ready…to face the dark memories…the images of you…slipping into another world.

The truth is…I am angry with you…for giving up…for giving in…and letting the pain…consume you.

You should have lived…should have struggled through the pain…like I do every day…and been there to be held by me…touched by me…loved by me.

My love…for you…sits inside me…killing me…forcing me to hold back…with everyone around me…chaining me to the place where you tore your body from mine.

Sometimes…secretly…shamefully…I wish…you would have waited just a few more moments…maybe hours…and then…you would have taken me with you…far from the intolerable feelings…and maybe I would have been…lying near you…in the cold ground…so I could keep you warm.

Every day that passes…I miss you more…there is no comfort…nothing can ease the sorrow…I can only wait…and long for the day…when you will come back to me…and tell me…why…you didn’t want…to stay.

Now, as the flames finish twisting and turning, I breathe deep and exhale my tortured thoughts.  Together, my husband and I sweep up the pieces of my heart off the floor and into our cherished box of shared pain.

As my head sinks into my drenched pillow, I hear another sound.  It is you.  The woman in the NICU…holding her lifeless little one…and you are screaming…and you want so badly for someone to say the right thing…but no one does…because no one can…and you want so badly for someone to write that to you…to share her thoughts with you…about how a child is never forgotten…always loved…always pulled back by the strong oil-filled glass with the upward-reaching wick, united with a flame…one, unique flame…that is forever jumping away…

And then I am sitting up in bed and my screams become a shout…and then form words…words I hear you saying…as you and I are joined by all our sisters as we storm the gates of Heaven with prayers begging…pleading…demanding that our Father bring back the ones He didn’t’ let us have…crying together as mothers of children who deserve to live in a glorious kingdom full of all the love and happiness they were denied.

Please…please, bring them back…please bring us home…together…all of us…whole.

2 thoughts on “Flames

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