Exactly 17 years and one month from birth, the baby had sprouted into a premature adult and most definitely not by choice. 17 years and one month later she was sat in the hospital, tending to a boy with fluffy brown hair and chestnut eyes and a faded smile. She changed his colostomy bag and she sat beside him, clasping his hand on the bed; a perfect team.
18 months prior things had changed for the boy- he was diagnosed with a treatable disease which proves fatal most of the time. The girl was beside him, fixed frozen to the worn waiting room chair as the words fell and crashed around her, disappearing like snowflakes and falling so much less delicately. He didn’t seem upset, though. He shrugged his shoulders and wrote the next appointment on his hand as he tugged on hers. She couldn’t move. She couldn’t speak. Her throat felt swollen and her eyes felt weak. But then she picked her self up, gave a weak smile and followed him through the door.
Fast forward to the day they were back in the hospital, her clasping his hand. And well, clasping his body close to hers. It was late in the evening and a month prior, on her birthday, he had given her a panda bear. He told her to have and hold it, when she got sad. It was one of those times that she wish she had it, as pain descended over her. Her muscles were weak from pacing and her mind was cloudy from overthinking.
Through the needle in his arm, he had just been delivered another dose. She reached for the bed pan; a ritual and almost natural response now. He pulled a face, but not the usual. This time he looked more sickly, more exhausted by the repetitive sickness. The bags under his eyes bulged and his pupils shrunk almost entirely. He looked into her eyes the deepest he had ever dared to venture and she felt him searching through her soul for something, but she didn’t know what. His arms fell to his side; he wasn’t trying to support himself as he usually would.
The girl rang and rang the nurses button, holding the pan. A nurse popped her head around the door and simply said “that’s perfectly normal, dear” and went on her way. By the time she turned her back the girl was screaming and crying.
He urgently needed help, it wasn’t normal.
She placed a fresh bed pan in his lap, kissed him on the forehead and ran for the door, flinging it open and tearing out. Bursting into a busy corridor, she made her way for the one point of call they said would be available, anytime. One lonely nurse stood behind the desk, frantically scribbling. Without words, she pulled her arm and forced her to run with her. It was only a short way but minutes couldn’t go to waste.
The two flew back into the room, swinging the door loudly behind them. He had grown more pale still, as he lay eyes closed on the bed. Vomit was strewn down his gown, but it had finally subsided. She froze like the day 18 months ago. But this time she was stronger, she was back in motion, moving towards the bed. She wrapped her arms round him, cradling him. The nurse was yet to move from just inside the door.
Shaking his hands wasn’t working. Kissing his barely warm skin wasn’t working. Talking to him gently and stroking his hair in the way he needed to be soothed wasn’t working. A solitary sorry remark came from the doorway…
Ignoring the vomit, she rolled him to his side, his head on her chest as it smeared on her leg. Tears formed quietly in the corners of her eyes and then rolled roaring down her cheeks, falling ferociously onto her chest. She pulled back his hair to stroke the scar he formed the first time they went skating and as she stroked it, she felt the life drain with it.
She looked down at him and felt the guilt wash over her- she didn’t even know the exact time it happened. She couldn’t even tell everyone the exact moment she lost him. It could’ve been the moment she left the door, but it could’ve been the moment they got the news that ultimately changed their lives. And still changes one life to this day. He didn’t go peacefully or gracefully in the slightest- he died alone and fighting.
To this day I admire his bravery. He showed a courage that lasted 18 months without failure and enough for the two of us. Of course I wish he was with me. For one I wouldn’t be pouring my heart out to strangers and secondly, I might have been able to feed off of that fighting spirit to get me through my dark days. Then again they might not have come, had tragedy not have befallen us.
I get emotional because he has no grave, no place I can go and know he’s only six feet away. Six feet I won’t bridge for a while, but closer than where we currently are. His family, who never changed him and barely visited took his ashes away, and scattered them somewhere. I don’t know where that somewhere is. So I cuddle the panda bear each night and he’s almost cuddled up to me. For a while I couldn’t touch the thing, I couldn’t bare to look. Now, at night you won’t find me without it.
And on these few nights of the year surrounding three years later, I have been thinking of him perhaps more than ever. Maybe my maturity has developed in order to feel grief and acknowledge the life changing consequences of a horrible truth. Or maybe I’m just ready.
This world is a messed-up, scary place and sometimes those we find to guide us through leave for whatever reason. We have to remember it’s not necessarily their choice and nothing more can be done. We have to live with what we gave to them- be it enough, marginally inadequate or even nowhere near enough. We have to go forth with courage surmounted to be more than enough by everything they gave us.