The Gate


Bethany Suckrow -The Gate3

“I had no idea,

that the gate I would go through to finally enter this world

would be the space my brother’s body made…”


For days now, that first line of Marie Howe’s poem “The Gate” has been echoing in my mind. Sometimes, my subconscious swaps out the word “brother” for “mother,” and I don’t remember until I utter the line aloud to myself, driving to work or walking my dog, that she said brother, but for me it was my mother.

I had no idea that the gate I would go through to finally enter this world would be the space my mother’s body made.

This gives it a whole new meaning, of course. We all enter the world through our mothers. But I was reborn. The first birth was the life she gave me. The second was her death.


I turn 30 later this fall. The number slipped off my tongue a few nights ago when we were chatting with our neighbors and one of them asked how old I was. “Thirty,” I said, as if it had always been there, waiting for me. My husband raised his eyebrows at me with a smile.

Is it weird that I’ve never thought about being this old? Sure, I’ve thought about all the things I wanted my adult life to look like, things that a 30-something might have and be: a career, marriage, motherhood. But I have never thought with any certainty about what it would be like to live in a 30-something body, with 30-year-old hands, and 30-year-old hair, and 30-year-old skin, and 30-year-old hips. Why is that?


I ponder this question while I walk my dog a few nights later. It is June in Tennessee and the air is heavy with the summer heat and humidity. My sneakers pound the pavement as I walk quickly, trying to keep pace with Samson, who is eager to get home to his water dish and air conditioning. When we arrive I collapse on the couch, feeling every sweaty cell of my almost-30 body.

I left the television on while we were gone. I watch as muted news anchors pontificate about the healthcare bill currently being drafted in the Senate, behind closed doors by a handful of men. Every time I think about what this bill could mean, I relive vivid memories of staying with my mother in the hospital during the last months of her life and sorting through her unopened medical bills. I think about all the people sitting in oncology wings right this minute, watching their loved ones’ bodies slowly disappear from view.

Here’s the ugly, messy truth: I haven’t thought about what it would feel like to inhabit a 30-something body because I was never sure that mine would be healthy. My friend Tamara, a cancer survivor herself, once wrote that living with the potential for a hereditary diagnosis is like living in the waiting room between the healthy and the sick for your entire life. You’re never totally out of the woods. Health, old age, a long and happy life—these things have never felt inevitable to me.

For so many people, a long and healthy life has never felt inevitable.

The other strange thing that I am only just now starting to unpack in my late 20’s, is my theology around heaven and the afterlife. I was raised in a faith tradition that believed that the Rapture could happen in the near future. All of the adults in my life—my parents, my grandparents, my aunts and uncles, the elders at my church, many of my teachers at the Christian school I attended, my professors in college—all articulated at one point or another that “we could be living in the End Times.” They believed (believe?) that Jesus could come back at any minute, and all of the Christians will be spirited away to heaven, away from here, away from now, with all of its pain and suffering.

I’m not sure when I stopped believing this. I’m not saying I have the answers to what will happen to us instead.

But I am asking, at least of myself, what it means when escapism becomes a core tenet of our theology?

How does this influence our choices—how we live, how we treat people, how we inhabit our planet—if we believe that it’s all disposable and we’ll get to leave it behind?

The gate I went through to finally enter this world was the space my mother’s body made.

When I am an old woman, if I am ever an old woman, I want my hair to be grey and my skin to be weathered and my hands to be rough because I lived in the present as much as possible.

I don’t want to escape any of it. I don’t want to ignore my own body, or the bodies of the people around me. I don’t want to treat humans or my planet like they’re disposable. And I don’t want to forget what it was like to stand at the gate, seeing the world, really seeing it, as if for the first time.