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Why you won’t see a picture

You won’t see a picture of Miri here.

Miriam was looked at a lot throughout her life.  Even before she was born she had  four ultrasound machines look her over, which is about three too many, we now think.

Miriam’s life taught us about the power of the human gaze.

In the first hospital, San Rafael  de Alajuela, the NICU nurses talk in a high-pitched, pleasant voice to the babies.  Their gaze is optimistic and encouraging.  The doctors tended also to be respectful of the basic humanity of the living being in their presence.

Later Miriam spent time in three other hospitals.  In these hospitals some nurses and doctors were sweet but many strangers streamed by her, glancing or staring, taking notes, pointing, chatting, and speaking about her, but rarely to her.  In one hospital machines photographed her almost daily.

Later when she was out of the hospital she spent some happy moments with physical and speech therapists. In the tiny, darkened room of one of them (at Clinica Red) the light was so low that faces became soft, and the few Christmas lights stood out like stars. During her visits to that room she blossomed into a fearless investigator of the beauty around her.

We wish we could have kept a photographic record of the effect various gazes had on her.  A nervous or arrogant doctor could make her choke or even send her into spasms just with his gaze.  A young Mexican mother of a neighboring child, with her sweet high-pitched voice that maybe reminded Miri of Alajuela, provoked one of her first smiles.  The worry in her parents’ eyes seeped right into hers, and then disappeared when ours disappeared.

In this world of easy access to video and photographs, where many of us spend more time gazing at images than at real things we often think we have received something by looking and we often forget what it is that we give when we gaze.

She was a pretty baby right from birth and for much of her life, including the day that she died.  Like other babies, she had soft, clear skin and a penetrating gaze of her own.  Many people were touched by being in her presence, not from her image  but from her connection.