Oct 26, 2013
In the dark, silence of the night, my 10-year old daughter came to me. I felt her presence before she spoke. Through the darkness, she quietly asked, “Mom, are you awake?”
I said, “Yes, what is it hun?”
Her voice was breaking and she said, “I was thinking of something I shouldn’t have been.”
The dim light in the room allowed me to see the emotions of her face. She was clearly shaken and scared. As I looked at her, the emotions she was feeling peaked. The moment her face let go of those emotions, I grabbed her, and she fell into my arms. She needed me to stop her pain. We held each other tightly. Quietly, our emotions fell down our faces.
As we held each other, I tried to figure out the best way to ask what was upsetting her. But, I knew. She had done this once before. It happened in the same way. I had had a conversation on the telephone with my sister about my condition. The same type of conversation had occurred that night. She obviously had paid attention.
I know I didn’t say anything she was not aware of concerning the nature of my cancer. She knows that once the drugs no longer work, I won’t get better although she holds onto the possibility.
She has heard me talk with others about my situation before, but tonight she couldn’t part from it. It was hard for her to put it away in its little box to be left alone, to be dealt with later.
I asked her if she wanted to talk about it. She said, “No, I don’t want to talk about it. I just needed a hug.”
After a few minutes, she said she was better, and she lay back down to sleep. As I tucked her covers in around her, I let her know that no matter what she is feeling or thinking she can talk to me about it.
“If you are having bad thoughts, it doesn’t make you a bad person. Everyone has bad thoughts,” I told her. “If I am ever talking to someone and you are hearing something you don’t want to hear, you can ask me to stop. Don’t be afraid to ask, I will stop.”
I did not ask that she reveal her private thoughts to me. She was not ready. They were better left under the covers for now.
I, too, lay back down to sleep. But, sleep I could not. My mind was filled with questions. How could I stop her pain? What will happen when I am gone? Will she get the same emotional support that I have always provided for her? She is being impacted by my illness and eventually will be impacted by my death. What can I do?
The reality is I can’t stop her pain. I can’t be around to make sure her father does what I have asked him to do. I can’t be here to make sure all her needs are met. There are no guarantees that her father, sisters, brother, and grandmother will listen to her as she weeps. I can only hope that everyone around her will do what I need them to do. To make her feel safe, secure and make sure she knows that someone will be there to care for her. And, to make sure she knows that if I could have stayed, I would have.
She probably feels helpless in the same way I do. She can’t fix it. She can’t make me feel better.
Hugging her in an effort to put pain and fear in a different place than at the forefront of her thoughts and telling her how much I love her is the only thing I can do. I will do that until my last breath.