In March, 1977, my husband, three children and I traveled to Jamaica for vacation. Driving on the unaccustomed left, we swerved to avoid an oncoming truck, hit an embankment and rolled. Something heavy pinned my shoulder.
“Are you on top of me?” I asked. Shouts approached and someone righted the car, dumping my husband, Eric back behind the steering wheel and revealing Natasha, my three-year-old daughter, beneath me, blood streaming from her neck. The rest of us had only minor injuries.
As we raced in a jeep toward a hospital in the tiny town of Santa Maria, I found myself bargaining: “If I can have this one thing…” then, what? I had never begged and certainly never prayed for anything before. Raised entirely without religion, I had no God in my vocabulary, yet I pleaded with all my strength. “If I can have this one thing…”
Two week later, deep in grief for my daughter, I asked myself, where was she and what did “gone” mean? I pictured her in flight, a fragile bird once trapped, now set free, and myself crashing into the brick wall of brute fact.
For years I’d dreamed of houses with an “other side.” I’d explore familiar rooms, then come across a secret opening into a parallel house, strange yet also expected, like a remembered childhood home. Now my world filled with paradox, reality and dream exchanging roles like a pair of linked tumblers doing somersaults. I began to feel, to hope—maybe even to believe?— that I would meet Natasha again someday. The love that bound us together felt stronger than the harsh fact of separation, strong enough to crash through that wall.
Two years later, I began going to Catholic Mass to support my son Tom’s sudden interest in church, and the folk-style music released waves of feeling, both grief and joy. I had no idea what was happening. I came across the lines from John’s gospel: “Unless a seed fall into the ground and die …” I thought of Natasha, enduring winter in the cold ground, “abiding alone.” Could I hope that Natasha’s death would yield the promised fruit? It soon would, in ways beyond my comprehension. I’d give birth to another baby girl, and I’d find a home in the Catholic Church.
My understanding of what is real mutates constantly, but my hope endures. I believe in hope itself, a hope that embraces doubt as well as certainty, the hope that saved me from my limited perception of so-called facts and revealed to me a wider horizon where love can triumph over death, bring good from evil and turn my tears to laughter.
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