There’s a movie called 21 Grams—perhaps you’ve heard of it—the title of which is based on some loose research that claims a body, passing into death, decreases in weight by an average of 21 grams. Is it the soul exiting the form? Or simply breath being exhaled one last time? Are the cells releasing oxygen, changing form, rearranging molecules, becoming less dense? I have no idea. I’m just sharing the theory with you in order to effectively contrast my next paragraph.
It’s odd, I think, for a body to supposedly become lighter in death, but heavier in slumber. I know, the sleeper doesn’t really become heavier—and yet, if you’ve held that sleeping child as he or she passes into true snooze mode, you know of what I speak.
It was not so easy to discern this transition when my little guy was a mere babe, because newborns always feel like dead weight to me, the floppy unpredictable little things. And then they start working on those neck muscles, trying sooooooo hard to hold up those giant weighty heads. And then, months later, it’s with much joy that you realize the child is actually attempting to cling to you, and that tendency in the little one grows stronger and stronger until he or she can actually “hold on” with arms and legs. That is when the passage into dreamland becomes more evident as you cradle the little one.
And what a precious moment that is, the transition. Subtle twitches in the drowsy one’s limbs become almost imperceptible, there’s perhaps a heavy sigh or two, the inevitable head flop if the child is resting over your shoulder, a barely detectable finger tapping… and then, weight. Heaviness. No movement. Only breathing.
It’s at those moments that I, too, participate by only breathing. Breathing in the sweet smell or freshly shampooed hair, or on alternate nights, the equally pleasing scent of earthy little head, mine to inhale. The sweet, small back and shoulders encased in fuzzy PJs, mine for the rubbing. Warm, soft hair, smooth delicate skin, eyes closed in blissful repose, the sandy lashes lying like fringed, still butterflies. All mine, to drink in as I choose, in the dim light of night. Mine for a limited time, to cherish.