A Lament for My Daughter by Katey Zeh

I wrote this the morning after the Presidential Election. While there will be time for hard work, there must also be space for the sacred work of lament. This is mine. photo-1461733558461-ff6968a0ae80.jpeg

Last night I dressed you in the Hillary shirt I ordered the morning after the first Presidential debate.  As I placed you in your crib, I kissed your sweet face and turned on the noise machine to block out the celebratory cheers that I knew would be coming in a few hours. We wouldn’t want to wake you.

As you drifted off to sleep, downstairs in the kitchen your dad was cooking shells for taco salads. The champagne was chilling in the bottom of the fridge. The news was streaming, filling our home with words of “too close to call.”  I said, “Let’s mute it for now while we eat. Let’s enjoy.” I painstakingly created an “H” out of shredded cheese and snapped a picture to post on Instagram.

Last night I sported my “I voted” sticker on the collar of the white pant suit I’d proudly worn to the polls to cast my vote for the first woman President. White, the color of women’s suffrage. White, the color of supremacy and oppression, a legacy of racism that awards me and you undeserved, boundless privilege.

Through the night I watched in horror as these United States turned redder and redder. The color of rage, of blood. “Have another glass of wine, Katey. You’ll feel better.”

No, I need to feel this. Every ounce of this pain. The pain that I often choose to not see, now staring me in the face. I couldn’t look away.

I took as much as I could bear. At midnight we part ways with our guests. Take the champagne with you.

I swallowed one of the bitter yellow pills my doctor had prescribed me earlier that day when I told him I couldn’t block out the noise: the gun shots, the threats, the gleeful cheers of white supremacy and sexism and homophobia and Islamaphobia and transphobia, and the sinful silence from people like me in response to these horrors. The pill dragged me into dreamless sleep for a few short hours.

And then you woke up, singing sweet songs in your crib. Happily oblivious. Cocooned. I envied you. For the first time in your life I wished that I could pull you back inside of me and keep you there forever, the amniotic fluid muffling out the horrors of the world outside.

But instead I didn’t hide my red swollen eyes from you. I let you see my tears, even though you can’t yet understand their source. I want you to see. I won’t–can’t–shelter you from my pain, from my fear for you. For all our babies.

Today I feel my heart breaking open, wider and wider. Creating more excruciating pain, yes, but also creating exponentially more room within me for love.

Love wins. I do not know how. But love wins.

Katey Zeh, M.Div is a thought leader, strategist, and connector who inspires intentionalKatey Headshot communities to create a more just, compassionate world through building connection, sacred truth telling, and striving for the common good.  She has written for outlets including Huffington Post, Sojourners, Religion Dispatches, Response magazine, the Good Mother Project, the Journal for Feminist Studies in Religion, and the United Methodist News Service. Her book Women Rising will be published by the FAR Press in 2017.  Find her on Twitter at @kateyzeh or on her website kateyzeh.com


Author: Katey Zeh

A passionate pragmatist and truth teller. Advocate, theologian, spouse, mama.

8 thoughts on “A Lament for My Daughter by Katey Zeh”

  1. Thank you for this, Katey. Your pain is felt by many of us. When I look at the sweet face of my seven-year-old half-Chinese granddaughter, I wonder if she’ll be turned away by a “Whites Only” sign at a public water fountain one day.

    For myself, I grieve that I will never see a woman president in my lifetime. I’ll never see another candidate, male or female, as qualified as Secretary Clinton.

    And like you, I mourn the loss of everything for our daughters and granddaughters. I hope this country will not turn into the Republic of Gilead.


  2. I saw a photo on one of the TV news programs: someone had put “Whites only” and “Colored” signs above adjacent water fountains. I don’t remember where that was.

    Yes, let us keep our children (both daughters and sons) as safe as we can. Katey, thanks for writing this very moving post. Is your daughter old enough to wear a safety pin with a pearl?


  3. Words fail me. I want to gather up all the children and vulnerable people and take them somewhere safe. But there is no such place so we have to build it.


  4. Beautiful, heartrending writing. Your essay is a stunning tribute to the power of love and your willingness to stay with the truth of what is. Your daughter will be stronger for having had a mother like you.

    I too am devastated and grieving each and every day. My children are grown and long gone but it is to Nature I turn for both solace and in my deepest grief. There must be a way through all this I say to the junipers as they waft sweet scent my way… there must be, but for now I am lost.


  5. Katey,

    Thank you for your grief and honesty and presence in the face of all of this. And for doing the work of looking within as well as without. I agree that a broken-open great if what is needed in these confused and angry times. The pain is indeed excruciating for so many, but I believe that that pain will lead us into wisdom for what is next. Blessings to you and your family.


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