Ash Wednesday 2014. First Day of Lent. Also, coincidentally, my birthday and the birthday of my second child, Sarah. For my Lent Writing this year I will be selecting a word from an online Random Word Generator. I am attempting this year to write shorter posts, and to let go of the desire to appear creative and intelligent. I'm just gonna write, and not worry about who reads it. If you wanna read, that's fine, but that's not why I am writing. I write because I feel a need to be present in myself as a writer. More often than not the writing takes place after midnight, when the house is quiet and sleep beckons, so I cannot promise any quality in my wordsmithing whatsoever. That's enough of a disclaimer. The word that cyberspace offered me today is "backspace."
Oh that I were a word processor. A slick backlit keypad with tidy little buttons, all well defined and programmed with dependable accuracy. I’d dutifully respond to the creative whims of the master and be calmly satisfied filling the measure of my creation. If there were mistakes made, it would not be my fault, really, even though many a master has tried to blame the machine. Oh that I were a PC, with a dandy little backspace button. Or a Mac with a sweet “delete”. It takes no more effort to press delete than it does to strike any other key. Oh…that I were a PC.
If I had a backspace for today I would have tapped my little finger on it after I ate that second piece of Baskin Robbins ice cream cake. I would have rewritten the story of my Sarah’s day at work, when they stopped her from leaving the clinic for our birthday dinner, because a woman was in labor 23 weeks into her pregnancy and there was no other pediatrician in the facility. I would have made that woman stop bleeding, taken her water back into her belly, cradling her baby safely inside. If I could have rewritten her story I would. But I suspect there is, somewhere in this valley, a grieving mother with a throbbing heart and an empty womb. Backspace, backspace, backspace.
Our fingers tap, tap, tap; our varied stories unfolding, planned or unplanned. We are permitted, I suppose, to backspace some things. Erase, in the deeper sense, mistakes we regret. Some mistakes we just move past, their marks remain and we move past them to fresh clean pages. But other mistakes require a conscious touching of the key.
I sit in that large warm space in the chapel down the street. Every Sunday, among my friends. I sit with my arms folded in my lap, my head bowed, the music of the hymn we have just sung wafting through my brain. I listen while the voice of one young man offers a prayer on the bread…and another on the water. I listen and repeat in my head. And I wait. Quietly, with that song repeating in the silence, a ribbon of straight backed Deacon boys winds through the aisles, pausing at each row with their offering. I raise my head when they stop at my row, watch and wait as the tray is passed from hand to hand. The shiny metal tray with its wells of forgiveness. It passes to my husband’s hands. He partakes, then offers it to me. I raise my hand and silently, reverently lift my finger and press backspace.