The Theory of Falling Bodies

If you could stop time, would you?

| January/February 2002

How’s this for an introduction to a class on Genesis? The professor hands each student an apple.

'Close your eyes,' she says, 'and remember the happiest moment of your life. Now imagine yourself back in that moment. Now, imagine you have a choice. You may opt to stay in your moment forever. Should you do so, time will stand still. You will not age; anyone alive now will not die. If you are pregnant, you will stay pregnant forever. The weather will never change.

'Your other choice is, you may eat your apple, in which case you will move on from your moment, leave paradise. You and others will age and die, experience all varieties of weather, all aspects of life.'

Given the choice, I’d forgo my apple. I’d let time freeze on October 30, 1999, the day my friend Elaine got married. Here is a picture of the whole party: bride and groom in the center, surrounded by bridesmaids, groomsmen, and the obligatory kids, flower girl and ring bearer.

In our snapshot, Mary, the maid of honor, stands to the left of the bride. She is all smiles. She has all her hair. Five months after the wedding, Mary will be dead, her hair lost to chemotherapy. On that October day, she does not know she has cancer. If I could stop time, Mary would still be here. If I could stop time, Dan, the bridegroom, would not have lost his job and fallen into a severe depression three months after the wedding. He would be as he is in the photograph: grinning as he towers over his bride. The bridesmaid to the bride’s right is pregnant with her second child, just beginning to show. I am that bridesmaid, and if I could stop time, I would not miscarry two weeks from the day of this wedding.

This is the story of that child who was not to be.

It is late on a Friday afternoon in September. I am at home, preparing for our family’s Sabbath, or Shabbat. Although we are not Orthodox, my family and I keep Shabbat regularly. Tonight is Erev Rosh Hashanah, the eve of the Jewish New Year, as well as Shabbat. After dinner, my husband, Wade, and I serve our guests challah and apples dipped in honey, a wish for a sweet new year. Then we all go to temple to pray; afterwards, we hug our friends and wish them 'Shana tova,' a good year. We linger outside the temple. Although it is September, it feels like late May. The perfect night to conceive a second child.

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