Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Write something AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL (10/02/14)
- TITLE: Our Final Trip
By Kellie Henningsen
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“All set?” I ask the kids as my husband pulls out of the driveway. They giggle in glee and burrow into their pillows and blankets. They look like they prepared for a ten hour trek instead of the one hour drive from our house to the hospital. One hour. Fourteen years ago that one hour tore our family apart. Fourteen years ago we longed to be in the city when we were home and we longed to be home when we were in the city.
I look back at our three blessings as they smile in anticipation of all they will see. The tall skyscrapers, the mass of traffic, the street peddlers. To them it’s fascinating but to me every detail is a memory.
My husband and I are silent as the miles pass beneath us. We relive the details of our final trip made so many years ago and the emotions are strong. This is hard. But this is also therapeutic.
“Kids! It’s the George Washington Bridge!” They sit up and all talk at once. The traffic converges from eight lanes to five and I cringe with every maneuver my husband makes. New York City rises before us. We point out where the Twin Towers used to stand – where they were when we made our final trip so many years ago.
As we wind our way off the bridge, the kids press their faces against the windows anxious to see the peddlers. Every year we look for them and every year they are there. Selling flowers to those about to enter one of the saddest places they will ever visit. A children’s hospital.
Columbia Presbyterian looms to our left. I look at the windows and wonder about the stories behind each one. I’m overwhelmed both for the families still there and for those who aren’t. Those like us.
We turn into the parking garage and the kids thrill at the height as we go around close turns and park in the dimly lit lot. From there we begin the last leg in our pilgrimage.
We are not alone in our journey. Familiar faces are scattered along the sidewalks. Many talk freely; even laugh but inside, there is a tumultuous sea of emotions brewing. We may not speak to them every year but we look for them. They are symbols of hope. Symbols of healing. We know them. And they us.
We enter the building. We know which way to go. We could still find our way to the 12th floor NICU as if on auto pilot but now we don’t turn that direction. Instead we turn toward the chapel. The crowd grows as we get closer. The lady in charge hugs us with a warm welcome. It feels like we are home. We are amongst those who understand. Our pain is not hidden here. It’s ok to discuss. It’s ok to feel. It’s ok to cry.
As people file in, pictures of their precious children scroll across the screen in front of us. Lives gone too soon. So much potential in those little faces. So much life to live. But they are gone now. Our daughter’s picture comes on the screen and we sit in silence.
New families are evident. Their tears and grief hard to bare but we are there. We are there to give them courage as others have us.
It’s been fourteen years since our final trip. Fourteen years of grieving and growing. Fourteen years of blessings and tears. Now, we return for ourselves but more for those whose final trip wasn’t so long ago. We are there to show them they will survive. We hug them. We encourage them. We share our children with them.
We give them hope.
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