She sat there holding her sister, gone now, for what seemed like an eternity. Her warm hands still clutched her own with fear and desperation, but the grip loosened with every passing second. She had expected this day would come, but the rehearsals in her mind didn’t take away any of the pain or the shock or the anger.
Slowly and with as much delicacy and care as she could muster from her weakened, shaking arms, she laid her sister down on the ground, lightly placing her arms across her chest, like she had seen on television. She sat back down beside her, crossed her legs and stared at her sister’s face. Her own face staring back at her, beaten and worn. Through the bruises and the scrapes, she saw her sister’s beauty. Even more so than she could ever see her own. Their features were the same, but her sister’s were softer, somehow. Kinder. Her eyes showed love and sympathy and joy much more than her own ever did.
She heard a cry. It was soft, at first. Gurgly and staccato. Then louder, with purpose. She put her head in her hands and cried fresh tears. Her heart broke once again. Kept breaking. She had forgotten about him.
In all the chaos and tragedy, she had forgotten about him. And now what? She got up with great effort and stood at the sink. Washing her sister’s blood from her unsteady hands, her mind raced through ‘now what?’ But it was less of a question and more of a directional sign toward the obvious. She must wash this horror off her hands, climb those stairs and face what was been written for her future.
She took the steps one by one, her feet dragging the weight of what she left in the kitchen and what was ahead of her. The stairs grabbed her feet with every step and held on for a moment, daring her to try to run. But running wasn’t an option. She was all he had left in the world now and she no longer had that choice.
When she reached his room, she opened the door to find him in his crib. Laying sweetly on his back, reaching for whomever will reach back. She walked over with her head tilted to the side. She wiped away the dampness from her face and she felt a smile creep across her lips. At this moment, he was the sweetest thing. She touched his tiny fingers, delicate and warm. She touched his pink cheek, smooth and pure. She swept her fingertips through his blonde hair, wispy and soft. He was the sweetest thing.
Lifting him from his bed, she cradled him like she never had before. She was his aunt until just minutes ago. She will now be what he will know as his mother. He won’t know what happened to his parents, just that they died and that she loves him as much as she would if she was his mother.
And she will. This tiny, precious boy will be loved.
The grotesque is beautiful, the tragedy is a triumph, the mundane is meaningful, the sin is a sacrament.