She was three. Young to have the cruelties of life thrust upon her, but when had life shown fairness? Not to most, and most certainly not to her today. She ran to the bedroom closet and climbed up on the pile of old clothes stacked there. Dark. Musty. But as she was all alone in the house, she felt safer there than anywhere else. The sirens had scared her, her mother’s cries of anguish still echoed. Her daddy, lying in the snow, colder now than the flakes covering him. She wanted to stay with her mother, cling to her hand, be hugged, but was ordered back into the house. Watched out the window as her mother got into the ambulance that rushed down the snow covered street, lights flashing. A neighbor, a stranger to her had finally found her, bundled her up to take her across that street to wait. As the flakes continued to fall, she clutched Teeny, her favourite doll and worried how much trouble she was going to be in. She was never allowed to cross this road unless daddy or mother took her.
She was eight. The smells of the hospital made her stomach hurt. She didn’t like hospitals. People went in to them and never came back home. Her mother lay gaunt in the bed, sallow skin, dried cracked lips, hair dull and tangled on the pillow. Not looking like she’d remembered her. Just a hollow shell of the mother she loved. She wasn’t normally allowed to visit her, usually had to sit by herself in the big room, strangers passing by at a steady pace. Waiting downstairs while her sister sat bedside, hour upon hour. But a nice nurse, another stranger had come to get her, taken her in to mother’s room. She sat engulfed in the big chair, waiting for her mother to open her eyes, glancing at the machines that beeped and hummed. Reaching out, she stroked her mother’s hand, so cool to the touch.
She was thirteen. Just walking in the door from school, but sensing something wrong already. She found her sister lying on the bed, sobbing uncontrollably. She hadn’t seen her big brother in a few years, he’d taken off to California just after the funeral. Her sister stumbled out the words between great hiccuping breaths. Fog…car accident, highway…a massive pileup. They didn’t have enough money to attend the funeral so she grieved three thousand miles away, wishing she’d been able to see him one last time. She pulled the covers over her head, burrowing in against the cold.
She was twenty-one, listening to the doctors at Children’s Hospital drone on about what they’d done, but more importantly, what they couldn’t. Three months old but nothing more to do, only a matter of time. They signed the DNR order and walked back to her daughter’s bedside. So still laying in the enormous bed. The nurses brought an extra chair and they kept vigil, until finally the monitor she’d watched for six weeks there began to alarm, a heart arrhythmia dancing across the machine. Kindly, a nurse came in, removed all the tubes, the IV, and let her be held. Swaddled, rocking, caressing downy soft red hair so like her own, but growing cold. So cold. So tiny, it happened quickly.
She was forty-eight and tired. Feeling once more like that three year old. Left behind, abandoned, without so much as a second thought. So easily discarded, she must be unworthy. Lacking. The ache was all over. Her head hurt, heart hurt and yet she continued to breathe, a cruel reminder of all that she’d lost, continued to lose. She thought back over the last few days, wondering what had happened, why it happened. No clarity, but worse, no closure and so she waited while the pills worked their way through her system, the aches finally, mercifully easing as the room grew cold, then colder still…