Author’s Note: This is the second story written from a series of short stories called “Outside”.
Which you can read more here. This story is fictional but obviously a fear very real to me. I am not afraid of dying so much as the heartache and pain inflicted on others due to my own wishes. There are fates that feel worse than death – multiple miscarriages, the loss of a child, the risk of a stroke that is worse than the first and could render me vegetable-like – these are things that run through my head every day.
* * * * *
A world filled of daisies
“Mama, mama!” she comes running to me. “Alexa! Slow down silly!” her sister follows her closely behind. “Today I am 4! Today I am 4!” There’s my little one. Alexa. I can see her clearly now. She’s part of my dreams every night and every waking moment.
“Mama?” Sadie’s staring at me. I’ve pretty much made a permanent move to our couch in the den.
“Sadie, are you okay?” I make a move to sit up, the pain in my chest from my dream makes it hard to get up sometimes. “Mama…” Sadie says. I haven’t noticed lately but she looks tired. When did she start looking so tired?
“You have to get up Mama, everyone is here” Sadie gets up from the chair beside me and I can she’s already started to arrange my clothes. She’s such a sweetheart.
“Sadie…” I stop her. “It’s okay, I can do it, is your dad outside?” I ask her, I can’t help but let the tears fall, it’s only ten and the day’s events haven’t even started.
“Of course he is Mama. He loved Alexa. He loves us too” Sadie says putting emphasis on the word us.
“She would have been 9 today you know…” I start but stop after seeing the pained expression on Sadie’s face. But it’s not all grief, there’s anger there too.
“Of course I know Mama” Sadie is in the corner now, her back is to me but I can tell her hands are shaking.
I get the strength back now. I don’t know where it comes from, but suddenly I can get up and move. Sadies hasn’t noticed I’m up yet until I’ve placed both my hands on her shoulders. I hug her from behind. There are no words to say.
* * * * *
Alexa was 2 when we first noticed something was different. As a person, she was full of life, exuberant, a child. There was nothing amiss there. It was her body. She bruised so easily. She would fall on the ground and laugh. The child laughed. She never cried over aches and pains. Then the fevers started. They would last for days. It wasn’t the common cold. She started to live in the hospital. We were checked-in more often than not. She never cried. All she ever wanted was to go outside. “Mama, mama, can we go see the daisies today?” She would always ask me. I couldn’t let her. The doctors had told me she had a rare disease involving her immune system. She couldn’t handle even the slightest bit of a cold, it would shut down her organs. I had to treat her like she was in a bubble. She was 3 when I had to stop holding her. Snuggling her. The lack of physical touch was a blow to her. We could tell. Being such a loving and playful child not being able to be touched or touch other hurt her more than anything. She never cried though.
* * * * *
“Are you ready?” I hear Garrett entering through the back door.
“We’re ready” I give a small smile to him as he walks into the lounge room. He doesn’t smile back. We haven’t smiled at each other for a long while now. Even before Alexa’s passing. He looks around our living room. It looks exactly the same as before but at the same time so different.
“Sadie…” Garrett notices Sadie is already here. I know what he sees because I see it too. She looks just like Alexa. Only a couple of years older. When they were younger they could almost pass as twins. Sadie has grown up so much though in these past few weeks. At only 9 she’s seen so much. She’s lost so much. While they weren’t twins, the girls could read each other’s minds. Alexa was always the more dominant of the two. Sadie adored her though and would always go along with her sister’s plans however outlandish they may have sounded. She knew she wouldn’t be long with us. Maybe that’s why she had to do it all. Everything. But she couldn’t. So she asked Sadie to do it for her.
* * * * *
Passing the fields
The drive to Pleasant Meadows Home doesn’t take long. There’s silence. Not just where we are, but in the whole place. We’re the ones who are left but we’re the ones who are quiet. Alexa wouldn’t have been. She would’ve been telling us stories. Imagining the lives of all who rest here.
“Catrin, I need to talk to you” Garrett whispers from my back. I turn and see him for the first time since we got here. He looks good. The past few weeks have aged him, as I’m sure they’ve aged me, but he’s still as handsome as the first time we had met.
Why did it end? Could we have done something different?
We’re home now. Garrett walks into our room, a room neither of us have slept in since that day. He picks up and strokes a photo of Alexa we have on the mantel piece. “She’s so beautiful, Sadie looks just like her you know…” I can barely hold in my feelings. Garrett wants to talk but will I ever be ready?
* * * * *
The dreams they repeat. I could never do that before. Now, I’m happy for them. They give me a chance. A chance to see her again…
We drive past the fields on the way to the hospital. We’re alone in the car this time. Sadie had to go to soccer practice (Alexa had really wanted her to join) and Garrett’s doing some grocery shopping for this week. It may sound selfish of me but I love moments like this.
“It’s so beautiful Mama, isn’t it?” Alexa says. We have driven past these fields almost every day for the past 9 years. “We can stop there on the way back if you’d like honey”
It’s the first time she’s ever said this, first time I’ve ever replied like this. I can’t let her go out into the field but we could drive a little more into the field maybe. I look back to her in the car. She’s not sitting there.
“I’d like that Mama, just think of it, a world full of daisies…”
I can hardly speak. This child. She was a blessing. She is a blessing.
“I love you Alexa”.
* * * * *
Author’s Note: In Catrin’s story, her grief and her inability to let go gives us a picture of who she is today – a shadow of her former self. But can you blame her? Love is a very powerful thing, and so is grief. It can be a process. She is at cross roads at the end of her story, I like to think she finds the strength within her to move on and love everything she does have, not what she no longer has.