Jennifer Holberg is away today. We welcome Maggie Rust to The Twelve. Maggie is a student at Western Theological Seminary in Holland, Michigan. Thank you, Maggie.
He named me Eve, Mother of all Living.
The Gardener told him he was free to name all the living creatures of the field and the air. “Cattle” “Sheep” “Bird” “Fish” Even that disgusting “serpent.” At first he merely called me “woman,” but then later, after, after the Knowing, he named me Eve. Life. Mother of all Living.
I thought at first that it was beautiful. But, now I know better. I know so much now that I never wanted to know.
It was beautiful at first. Not as beautiful as the Garden, but we worked hard to make our own little garden east of there. With his sweat and his tears, Adam tilled and kept the land like the Gardener had told him to. We ate grain from his fields and fruit from his trees, which was all the sweeter for Adam’s work and care. Better than that bitter taste from the Knowing Tree.
I had my share of sweat and tears as well. The Gardener did not lie when he told me that carrying a child would be painful. It was excruciating to bring him into the world, both of us screaming and bloody. But when I held him, it didn’t seem to matter. My name made sense – Mother of all Living; I had produced a son in Cain.
And then, our joy only grew in Abel. I was the mother of two fine boys whom I loved more than anything. Adam taught them how to care for the land as the Gardener had told us. Cain liked to work with his father in the fields, and Abel loved the little flock of sheep we kept. Abel’s hands and heart were as soft as his lambs’ wool. And, Cain’s callused fingers were always covered in the soil. His hands were never clean. When I remember that now, I wonder if I should have known. Such hateful knowing.
How can I recount what happened? How could I have imagined that our little garden would become yet another place of terrible knowing? Suddenly the ground was wet with more than just our sweat and tears; the blood of my child stained the soil and his brother’s hands! I had thought that bringing them in to the world was the most painful thing I would have to face, but it was nothing compared to losing them. It felt as if my womb was torn from my belly, like my heart was broken apart, like our little family. My son dead; my son gone from me and as good as dead, pushed even further east.
Mother of all living? It felt a cruel joke. But there is no word for a mother whose children are dead.
Is this how the Gardener felt? Is this the Knowing that we share? I wish I could unknow it.
To bring a life into the world, to love and care for it so deeply, to have to watch as it chooses to turn away from you. I understand now how the Gardener could turn to me and ask, “What have you done?” when I knew he knew full well. I was before him naked and afraid and the Gardener was already grieving because now I knew it. I knew too much.
Now, as I hold another son, all of these things I know weigh heavy on my heart. There is so much risk in loving, in letting this life go from me to work the garden and wonder if he will return to me. A piece of my heart will go with him always, just as it followed Abel into the ground and Cain far away east. I cannot stop my loving them as fiercely now as when they were first born, before they knew anything at all.
Mother of all Living, all that were living and will live, loving them despite my knowing.