Our first family dog was a great black Newfoundland.
Braham was so tall he could put his head on our dinner table. He was so gentle our baby could playfully kick his feet in Braham's mouth.
Once, when the baby was playing on the floor, Braham came racing through the house, chasing our cat. Before I could react, Braham launched his 150-pound frame over our son, not even grazing him.
Right after Braham's second birthday, we were at home on a hot July evening when I heard a knock at our door. My stomach flipped in premonition.
Holding the baby, I opened the door to a clearly anxious man who said, "I hit your dog, but I think he's going to be OK."
I followed this stranger to where Braham lay, looking dazed. I knelt beside him, the baby on my lap, and lifted his heavy head. I looked into his eyes and, for a moment, he was still there. Then, with no sound, he went limp, and the light in his eyes extinguished. Everything that was our dog had vanished. I held a shell.
A while ago, I took a parenting course. One of the trainers reported on a study by doctors where mothers sang to their infants, but they sang without facial expression or intonation. In each case, as the emotionless mother sang, the baby would look confused and begin to cry.
What is it about a life force that is so indefinably compelling? I think of Madonna's song "Crazy For You" and the line "I can feel the weight of your stare." What? How can we "feel" someone watching us? Clearly, there can be no weight or measure to a look; yet, isn't it there?
Sometimes when I talk to my husband, he'll bend down to hear me, and I'll step into his space. Sometimes, there is a tender, pulling ache to his air.
Many years ago, I worked with a father who had been horribly abused and who had likewise abused his own children. We were standing in Family Court one day, and there were lawyers and caseworkers and angry family members everywhere. One minute the father was standing to the side of me and the next, as the atmosphere grew unbearably charged, I sensed that he was gone. I looked over, and he hadn't moved. It was as if in the midst of the ugly words and chaos, he had erased himself and made his life space invisible to unkind eyes. Had he grown accustomed to doing that?
I am amazed by the powerful, unique way that people "feel."
I have a crazy vibe. Elementary teachers cringe as I walk near their well-behaved line because no matter how hard I try, even if I avert my eyes, the children become agitated and act out as I pass. I know it is my strange energy stirring them, a charge that upsets balance. I have a dear friend who is the opposite. When she enters a room, everything becomes peaceful. She quiets the crazy.
Isn't there something to each of us, an aura that defies explanation? I believe that that is where God's breath mingles with ours.
Most of us can think of someone we find unappealing, even ugly. Then we see that person with a loved one, and suddenly something shifts and there is radiance.
Mother Teresa was quoted as saying, "I see God in every human being." I wish I could say the same. I wish I could say that I am always able to see past physical deformity or dirt or smells or obnoxious behavior and see God's touch. I can only say that I am trying.
In 2008, my friend and I were baptized to the song "This is the Air I Breathe." For me, this song honors the place where God and man meet, the place where hidden heart-lights form and shyly await acknowledgment.
My son tells me that matter is indestructible; that it is infinite in some form. If that is true for the merely tangible, how could it be less so for the beating spirit tucked inside each of us?
Mary White is from the Malone area. She and her husband have five children, eight cats, two dogs and three guinea pigs. She has had the privilege of working with children and families (her own and other people's) for more than 20 years.