Saturday, December 8, 2007
for one more day
Have you heard about this book? It's the story of a man who gets the chance to spend one more day with his mother who passed away 8 years earlier. I haven't read it yet, but I'm familiar with the sentiment it's intended to ignite. And that is, If you had one more day to spend with a loved one you had lost, who would it be and what would you do? I've given this a lot of thought, and I think I have come up with my answer. But first, another question.
What if you never really got one day in the first place?
I'll never forget hearing my sister's voice as she called me from the hospital. "I lost the baby," she said. The walls in my room went blurry, the voices of my kids downstairs faded into background noise, and my eyes caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror across the room from where my slumped figure sat on the bed. "What??!" I managed to ask, in the kind of voice that blends a gasp with confusion and disbelief. She seemed to be testing out the words herself, as if saying them out loud would either help it sink in or make her wake up from a bad dream. She repeated, "I lost the baby." I could hear the shock and confusion in her voice, and I struggled to process her words which seemed so disconnected from reality. This seemed impossible. She was only two weeks away from being induced, and though we knew that the little girl she was carrying had Down Syndrome, everything seemed to be going fine. I tried to be of comfort but fell pathetically short, as I guess anyone would. I would have thought that after all the years we spent together in this life as sisters, I would have something else to say besides "I love you", but suddenlty the space in my head and the air around me felt void of words and it was all I had to offer. There seemed to be nothing to do but cry. Which I did. For days. The thought of imagining my sister the very next day in a hospital, forced to deliver her baby girl whose cries would never vibrate the room was excruciating.
I flew out to California a few days later for a memorial service at their home where I watched in awe as my sister and her husband navigated their new territory. I was in the room when I had to listen to her re-explain to her 3-year-old daughter that she would be unable to give her baby sister the stuffed animal that she had picked out, but that she was more than welcome to put it in the casket. And, "...yes mommy's sad, but I love you."
It's been a little over a year now, and I still do a little knee jerk every time I see a little girl with Down Syndrome. Because I wanted the chance to be her aunt, to shower her with love and to beat up any mean kids who were ever...well...mean to her. I wanted my kids to be able to play with her and love her at our family reunions. I envisioned her older siblings who would have spoiled her on ridiculous levels. I imagined her being the best thing that ever happened to our whole family.
I. I. I.
Enough about me, what about my sister? That's why, after giving it a lot of thought, I would choose to give MY day to HER, to spend with her baby girl. Except the baby would be old enough tell her what a great mom she is, and that she's sorry it's hard, and that she loves her. She would smile back, give great hugs, and smear Cheerios into the carpet.
Just one day. Yes, I believe that's what I would do.