I want to ask you to do something. I want you to imagine that you are eleven years old. It's July 7th, and you are playing outside with your friends, it's just a normal day. Until the phone rings. Your grandmother answers it, and in a panic rushes out the house. She runs across the street and has a family friend come over and watch you and your little sister. Your grandmother speeds off without saying a word. Your babysitter tells you nothing either, she just worriedly tells you to go play.
You go ahead with your normal activities, but you know something is terribly wrong.
Again, the phone rings. It is your grandmother. She speaks with your babysitter for a few minutes then you get on the phone.
"Why'd you leave gramma?" you ask her.
She tells you she's at the hospital and then hands the phone to your know-it-all aunt.
"Aunt Peggy, are you and gramma ok? Why are you at the hospital?"
She tells you calmly, "Your mommy is a little sick, honey."
"Is she ok? When I'm a little sick everybody doesn't come to the hospital, is something really wrong?"
"No, honey, we would come if we knew you were sick," she soothes, but you know she's lying. Something's bad, really bad.
The day continues and you play grumpily with the others, always remembering in the back of your child mind that something's amiss.
It gets very late and finally your family comes home. Your father leads you and your younger sister into the living room. He has something important to tell you.
As he tells you, you get very sad, and your little sister gets very confused. She doesn't understand "What's a coma?" she asks you knowing that you'll know, you're the smart one.
You explain it to her, but you already know what a coma is, you want to know why your mom is in a coma.
You instantly swing into brat mode, you and your sister whine "We want to see mom". You will. Dad's the only one who understands. With tears in his eyes, the first time you've ever seen tears in his eyes, he leads you to the car.
Once you get to the hospital a cold impatient doctor tells you "No, you cannot see your mother." They won't let you see her until you talk to a special person.
You go home upset. You want to hold your mom. You miss her. You don't understand why you can't see her, she's your mother.
The next day, you go to the hospital. They take you and your sister into a small room. The doctor tells you to wait. Soon, two ladies walk in. You fidget impatiently, when do we get to see mom?
They explain again what a coma is. They then tell you about various machines you will encounter in the ICU. Your little sister looks up at the lady, "Do you think my mommy will die?"
"Yes, I think your mother will die" the lady replies coldly.
You now hold your little sister, who is crying.
They are finally letting you in to see her. You walk back timidly. You see her laying there. Her beautiful face in a tangle of wires and machines. "Beep...beep," machines are noisily beeping all around you. One in particular catches your eye. It has something flashing across its monitor. It mostly makes little hills and cones. But every once in a while it makes a plateau shape.
You approach the bed. You have a fascination with hands and she's no exception. You still remember her hands. There's a little cross tattoo on her finger and she has pink nail polish on. You'll always remember her hands.
Then you hear something. They say, 'He's here'. He's out side talking to a nurse. For an instant, hate races through you, 'why did he do this?' Why can't they punish him? If he loved her, why'd he do this? You rush out, trying to run at him and hurt him, but your grandmother, aunt and uncle won't let you, they hold you back. That was the last time you ever let hate consume your heart.
You go back to her now. You hold her and cry. "Please mommy, don't die." You beg her not to go. Then, you hug and kiss her, it's time to go home. As you and your sister prepare to leave you feel you need a sign. You look up at the machine and beg her to make a plateau, a moment later a plateau bleeps across the screen. As you walk away you turn back and a tear rolls down her face.
The next day, your father tells you to set down. "Your mom died today." You are now lost, without words and unable to feel anything except confusion and sadness.
There's a lot more to this story, but at this point, it's all irrelevant. The point of this letter is not the details of my mother's death. It is not to discuss why she was in a coma or why she died. I want all of you to appreciate who your mother is. We all get mad and say things we don't mean. There are lots of things I'd like to take back, but not my last words. The last time I saw her alive and walking, I got the chance, so few have. I got to say, "I love you" one last time.
The next time you see your mother let her know how much you care, how much she means to you. It could be the last time, so don't regret it.
Editor's Note: I recently attended Heather's High School graduation ceremony in New London, Ohio, along with a host of other family members. Afterwards, we gathered around Heather as she read the above story of her mom, my sister. Heather is planning to attend Kent State in the fall and she has picked Political Science as her major. Perhaps someday Senator Heather, or maybe President Heather, will publish another of her writings in Connection Magazine.