On May 14, Je T’aime Taylor demonstrated great courage when she invited friends and family to join her in an act of communal remembering, grieving, and honoring of her stillborn son Adisa Baraka Osayande-Taylor. As one of her friends put it, “Too many men and women have suffered in silence following the death of a child or loss of a pregnancy.”
Je T’aime invited me to share a few words during this ceremony, and then gave me permission to share them here. I’d also encourage you to read the beautiful poem shared and written by KC poet Natasha Ria El-Scari by clicking here: Mother Poem for Jetaime POEM 2016
Je T’aime and I were basketball teammates in college. After Christmas break one year, I remember rushing over to her in order to give her a bear hug and perhaps even a kiss on the cheek. What I didn’t know is that she had just had her wisdom teeth pulled.
That memory surfaced for me because I think all of us here today are eager to show our love, and we hope to do it in a way that doesn’t add to the pain. And so we stumble around not always knowing what to say or not say, knowing that nothing we can say or do can take away the pain caused by the death of a loved one.
When I think back to the day you went into labor, I remember feeling excited. I looked forward to holding your beloved son. And then the text came from your sister Tiffany: “Please pray for my sister.” And then the news: “The baby didn’t make it.” In the hours and days that followed people lit candles, prayed, asked questions (lots of questions), shed tears, yelled, and we all struggled to know what to say.
It felt like a gift to spend a little time with you in the hospital after Adisa was delivered. I brought along some anointing oil. (Sometimes when there are very few words, there is the power of touch.) When I offered to anoint Je T’aime, she gladly accepted. I remember drawing a circle on her forehead and saying: “Love encircle you in body, spirit, and mind.” I drew a circle because I felt so strongly the circle of sisterhood and friendship. I felt this great company of friends and family encircling you and Adisa. And I thought of the sacred circle that is the womb. Though your time together was short, it is a bond, a circle of love that has no end.
I then asked if you wanted to anoint Adisa and you gladly took the oil. As I watched you, I thought of the words from Psalm 139: For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Many poets throughout time have imagined God as a great womb. Consider for example these words from the hymn, O God, great womb:
O God, great womb of wondrous love, your Spirit moving on the deep did wake a world within yourself, a pulsing, lighted world, from sleep.
O hearth, O heartbeat of the whole, your dark light dance began the times, the days and seasons, seconds, years, the ages’ rhythms and the rhymes
O silent soul, O mind and strength, your center did conceive and bear its image-self- two human forms, one breath to share.
The final stanza of this hymn acknowledges that as beautiful as this Divine womb is, we still groan.
Now come with rest O Sabbath sun, O sanctuary, sacred home, we groan till all is grown complete, fulfilled at peace, O great shalom.
Je T’aime, we groan with you. We mourn with you. And we hope to continue to grow alongside you. We seek to be your fellow travelers on this way toward sacred home, where all is at rest, where pain and death are no more within the Greatest of Wombs.
Adisa did not make it and yet, he will continue to make you who you are and who you become. God will continue to make you, forming who you will yet become. May the Great Spirit continue to make Herself known to you/us, encircling us all in body, mind, and spirit.
Should be: “…its image-self — two human forms…” (I should know, I wrote it)
Thank you, Harris. Edit made. I think this is one of the most beautiful texts in our Mennonite hymnal. What a gift.