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One Day In Heaven
She hadn’t cried when she was born, so it was quiet. It was too quiet except for the sobs of my mother and sister. The blinds were opened, but the sun was being blocked by large trees and only small polka-dot rays got into the room, flashing on the floor and walls. The room was small and filled with machines that I didn’t understand. This one did that. That one did this. The closet-like, wooden door to the bathroom was slightly opened and the television which sat on a mount from the ceiling was turned off; it left the room in an awkward calmness. It seemed horrifyingly cold, though the windows were closed and the heat was on. Shivers crept down my spine as I watched her, helpless, my sister. The sun was never more distant.
My sister cried silently, letting the tears run down her cheeks and onto her dry lips, down and off her chin. She held the small, fragile body in her arms. She was wrapped in a white blanket with the blue and pink stripes at the top. It was the blanket that they gave you at the hospital when you gave birth to keep the memory of the moment. Mothers would say, “This was the blanket she was wrapped in when I had her,” then they should be able to go on, “Look how grown up she is now.” My sister would never be able to do that, and my heart ached deeply when I thought about it.
I remember how I felt when she got the news. Apparently, she had gone in for a regular check up. She had been attending them since she found out that she was going to be having a baby. At the hospital, after her regular checking of the baby’s heart, she went in for a sonogram. I could imagine her, sitting there on the bed as the doctors talked outside her door, wondering if something was wrong, praying that her baby was okay. I couldn’t think about the confusion that she felt when they told her that her daughter had Holoprosencephaly, a disease where the embryo had failed to develop and the brain, which is divided into four sections, had not done so. She was told that that there were defects in the development of the face and brain structure.
When she called, she was crying and I wasn’t sure what the problem could have been because she didn’t tell me right away. My heart pounded like there was someone inside of me beating drums and I waited for my sister to come home so she could explain the news to us. When she finally did come home and explain everything, I thought nothing of it. I was too used to everything being perfectly fine for our family. Being in the hospital and watching my sister from across the room, knocked me back to reality. This was happening… and it was as real as the blood streaming through my body. I knew that I was going to have to find ways to make her feel better, but it was hard to think about right then. My aunt, who had been sitting near the window with her head down and her eyes closed, got up and left the room, sobbing loudly. She needed comfort. As if she could read my mind, my mother pointed towards the door with an extended finger, signaling for me to go out and comfort my aunt. I wiped the tears from my eyes and did so.
She was in the hallway, which was quiet, but coursing with nurses walking back and forth, doing their jobs like they did everyday. I felt as if they were all too used to death by now. I walked over to my aunt and placed a hand on her back, embracing her. She shook her head with her hands over her face and cried, “Why? Why, Jesus?”
I wasn’t used to it. I didn’t know how to make people feel better when something bad happened. I didn’t even know how to make them feel better if they were sick with the flu. I stood there with her, watching, waiting for something to happen. She didn’t stop crying. I didn’t stop crying. I just couldn’t understand. Things like that didn’t happen to our family. Did it mean that there was something wrong with us? Did it mean that we weren’t doing the things that we were supposed to be doing, living our lives the way we were supposed to be living our lives? I was seventeen, at the age where things of life should be clear to me, but I still didn’t understand it.
I didn’t want to go back into that room, which was awkwardly quiet and calm. If I went back into the room, I was sure that I would start crying again. I took in a deep breath, building up all my fear, pain, and trouble like stacking sticks. Then I exhaled, blowing them all away, watching them hit the walls and fall to the floor, melting, melting until there were none left. My eyes felt like they were being pulled down by small sized weights and ready to explode with tears. Leaving my aunt to be alone, like she had requested, I walked back into the room, where my mother was now sitting in the teal chair beside the bed, holding her still daughter close to her. She was stunningly beautiful, if there was anything that could be, and had a head full of hair. It just wasn’t fair for someone to be brought into this world for a nanosecond and then gone… swaying away like their existence didn’t matter. The nurse had told us that “her heart wasn’t beating fast enough” and that her breathing wasn’t in tune with her heart. I knew what that meant. It meant that she was dying, slowly, but dying nonetheless. I was crying again. It just wasn’t fair.
“If there is anything that I can do for you, let me know.” The nurse had told my sister before walking out of the room. My aunt came in as she left and took her seat in the chair she had been sitting in before. She had made all the calls, told everyone what was going on. Now, it was her turn to hold her. She didn’t seem nervous. She wasn’t nervous at all as she took the baby into her arms and held her like she was her own child, smiling at her perfect face and holding her small hand. Unlike a normal baby, she couldn’t wrap her little fingers around my aunt’s big finger.
I reached over and grabbed the camera from the counter. Then with hurried strides, I walked over to her and snapped her picture while she held her in her arms. I was being incredibly stupid. It was almost like I expected her to die that instant. I wanted to capture her, to make sure we always had her even though she wasn’t there.
She had been born at two o’ two in the afternoon. She had ten fingers, ten toes, a heart, a brain… only she wasn’t “compatible with life”. Those were the terms that they used. I hadn't seen so many people in one hospital room in my life: her uncle, aunt, great aunt, grandmother, great grandmother and cousins. Everyone made sure that they took a picture with her wanting to cherish the memory and wanting her to know, “You were once here. You were ours once.” Then there came my turn. It was my turn to hold her.
I sat down in the chair as my sister, ever so gently, placed her into my arms. I didn’t think I would shake so nervously as I held her tiny body close to me. I was afraid that one move could hurt her; she would shatter like glass. I was afraid that the sound of my voice would scare her and her heart wouldn’t be able to take the pressure. I was afraid mostly that with one move, she would die in my arms. I couldn’t imagine the pain that came with that.
Two long, too long, hours went by in that room and she was still there. The doctors had told her that she might be able to live up to three weeks, but that included being fed through a tube and having machines that helped her breath. That wasn’t the life that my sister wanted for her child. As her great grandmother held her in her arms and talked silently to her, I watched as her dying body seemed to drift away. Fragile and small, she drew her last breath. I wanted to shut my eyes, drop to my knees and pray for her back, but there was no use; she wasn’t going to miraculously pop back to life like they did in the cartoons. When my grandmother realized only seconds later, she whispered: “She’s gone…” and she started to cry. The intensity of the situation knocked me down. I wondered who could ever feel like this. Who would want to? Tears were loud. I watched as my sister took Mikenzi into her arms and brought her body close to her face, holding her, smelling her, wanting her back. She had known the truth about her daughter and the possibilities of what could happen, but who could ever prepare themselves for the death of their own child?
It was hard to watch my sister. It was hard because she was my sister, but she was also a mother. The image of her holding her dead daughter’s body would always be imprinted in the back of my mind. Maybe it was the way that her tears hit Mikenzi’s face. Maybe it was the way that she rocked her gently from side to side knowing that she would never be able to see her grow. She would never be able to talk to her about girl problems and being involved with boys. And maybe it was because I would never be able to spoil her and buy her whatever she wanted, play with her and let her eat cookies in the middle of the night. That would be our little secret. The pain that came with watching a mother having to watch her daughter die was like fire. It burned everything in its sight and it kept going, taking all of your possessions, your home, your life and making you start all over again. There was nothing that anyone could have done to save her; her
life belonged to God.
Mikenzi Elizabeth was born, weighing six pounds and five ounces, on August 30 at two o' two in the afternoon. She died at exactly five o’clock two hours later, leaving behind so many people who loved her from the first instance she entered the world. I thought about how I would never be able to see her again in person. There would only be pictures to leave behind heartbreaking memories and that feeling that makes you think it was your fault. I knew that I would never see her in this world in person ever again, but maybe I would see her in spirit or soul. I didn’t know how to feel. It almost didn’t seem fair for me to cry because she wasn’t my daughter. I felt as though it was easier to hold it in; it was better to move on instead of sticking around in the past. Because I moved on, with the memory of her in my mind, I am a stronger person than I was before. Dearest Mikenzi, will you meet me one day in heaven?