I sat in the hospital room and looked at my daughter lying in the bed. I felt the hard cold back of the chair pressing into the stiff muscles of my spine. I’d been sitting in that chair for almost two days. My head was buzzing with the shallow energy of the five cups of coffee that I’d sipped at through the night. The weatherman said that the day was sunny, but all I saw was the darkness of that room. All I felt was the endless depths of my sorrow. Its pain filled my veins with an unimaginable sadness.
My daughter was dying. She was 23 years old.
I’m no stranger to hospitals. I’ve been a nurse since 1985. But in that room my mind had become numb, and I forgot everything except my daughter. I wasn’t a nurse here. I was only a mother. I sat next to her and held her cool hand. I fitted earphones over her ears, so she could hear her favorite songs. If I listened, I could hear the faint strains of that music in the stillness of the room. I heard the soundtrack to the Crow, and the Rocky Horror Picture show. I heard Tori Amos, and the Indigo Girls. I heard the chilling soundtrack to Phantom of the Opera.
My tears were gone, and I felt as though crying had made me hollow. I’d begun crying months ago - when we’d first heard the word “leukemia”- and had gone through times when there were no more tears – and also through times when tears wouldn’t stop.
In the silence of that afternoon, I heard her heart monitor. Its steady beats seemed to syncopate my grief, and I tuned it out for a while as I remembered our rocky relationship. She’d been so headstrong, and we hadn’t agreed on much for so many years. Yet she came to live with me when she’d become a mother. I was the one who she’d turned to for help to raise her son. Two such strong-willed women in the same house was a recipe for disaster, and we’d clashed many times since she’d come to stay with me.
But there weren’t any more clashes. There was just the beat of her monitors, and the numbing passage of time. Her life was like an hourglass, and the sand was slowly slinking down.
Eventually, it ran out. The monitor’s steady beats became one long and endless wail. I’d felt her grasp on my hand became limp and absent. My vigil ended in tears, as she went home to heaven. My husband had waited there with me, and we cried together as we said goodbye to our beautiful girl.
The nurse came in to complete the tasks that I knew only too well, from my own work as a nurse. I smiled and thanked her for her care of my daughter, and stood up. My husband and I walked away from that room, and we went to his brother’s home to pick up our younger daughter.
We’d called my sister-in-law from the hospital, so she already knew. She’d already told our younger daughter. We held hands and cried together.
My grandson’s face was curious: “Where’s Mama?” he asked me. The tears I’d thought were gone came back.
“You know that your mama was sick,” I told him. “Well, she’s all better now, but she’s going to live in heaven with Jesus so she won’t get sick anymore. She’s an angel now, sweetie. But Nana’s here.”
“I want Mama,” he insisted.
So did I.
He didn’t really understand. How could he? But he willingly went to his Nana, and he let me hold him, and the transformation began. I realized that even though I’d been his grandmother for two years, I was now destined to become his mother.
So we sat together and watched Sesame Street, and watched Elmo play an April Fool’s joke on Big Bird. And my little boy laughed while I smiled for the first time that day. I thanked God for the life of my daughter, Larisa, and praised Him for giving me a new son.
Hi I appreciate you and people like you who keep it real and thanks for your comments on my poeam,power over nothing and I also have other work out there on this FW net work and i hope you will find time to ceck out more of my work not all as harshly written as perhaps this one,but i appreciate you and feel strongly that you are an remarkable person for what you are going went through with your daugter and felt your pain and your words for Larisa moved me to tear it was all simply beyound words and may god bless you and your grandson today and in the years to come,Thank you and GOD bless!
I'm touched by your strength and spiritual maturity. Your beauty and love for your family is evident in Tribute to Larisa. My condolences. Your final paragraph shows us the victory we have even in grief. You have written a story that touches my soul. Thank you for sharing.
Donna, I just read this story. It is so touching and so well done. I read it only because I have a Russian friend named Larisa. Little did I know the roller coaster ride you put me through! Magnificent. Thank you for sharing your pain and blessing with us.