A young child told her parents that she didn’t want to spend the rest of her life in a hospital, so they took her home and had the best time in the world. But when she got too ill again, she begged her to let her die. It was the hardest decision they had ever made.
When you have children, you never think about saying goodbye to them. You care about the world and protect it as best you can. But you never really believe that they can be dead before you. But when our daughter Sandra got sick, my husband Josh and I were determined to fight it.
Unfortunately, it was chronic kidney disease and Sandra had spent so much time in the hospital at the age of six. We thought the fight was over when she got a transplant, but things only got worse. And one day the doctor gave us the message that we never wanted to receive.
“There is nothing else we can do. Sandra is too weak to undergo any further treatment or surgery. It’s time to prepare,” the doctor declared, his matter-of-fact demeanor arousing an anger I didn’t know I had.
But the tragedy happened just a week after she left the hospital.
Tears of anger formed in my eyes and my feelings made it difficult for me to speak. But I did my best. “How can you tell us that? No, you must do something. You have a duty to heal my girl!” I demanded, crying in desperation and almost scolding him.
Josh held my shoulders because he knew I was about to collapse. The doctor spoke again and I knew he was reasonable. But now was not the time for logic, statistics, or facts. I wanted solutions! We needed a cure for our girl!
“Ms. Wheeler, you and your husband have two options. You can leave her in the hospital for us to care for and provide pain relief, or you can bring your daughter home. But honestly, there’s nothing else I can do for her, and I promise you, it’s not easy for me to say. I went to med school and learned how to save lives. Breaking this news to parents is always, always, always awful for me,” the doctor explained, though his words were still serious and unemotional. I calmed down. I knew he was doing his job.
“Okay, so let’s stay. She needs treatment. Maybe a miracle will happen,” I told him, but a small voice from the bed behind us spoke up.
“No, mommy. I want to go home. I don’t want to be here anymore. Please, let’s go home”, Sandra begged and stared at me intensely. Her pale, frail face was difficult to look at then and I could not ignore her words.
“Okay, sweetie. We go home.” I nodded and sat next to her to hug her. Josh joined us and we stayed like that for a moment.
“Woo-hoo,” she said weakly when we parted, and we started packing her up and signing hospital papers for her discharge.
The next few days of my daughter’s life were more beautiful than I ever imagined. Despite her fragility, she smiled brightly. We took her to the zoo in a wheelchair but she got up to pet some animals and a light shone in her eyes.
We took her to a park and although she couldn’t play roughly with the other children, for once in her life she socialized and felt like an ordinary little girl.
“She’s never had to before,” I commented to my husband, and he nodded with a grim, strained grin. We hadn’t realized how much she had missed due to her condition. It wasn’t fair.
But the tragedy happened just a week after she left the hospital. Sandra couldn’t get up and had been coughing wet for some time. I was panicking. “I’m calling 911 right now,” I said, desperately grabbing my phone.
“Mom, please let me die. It’s time. I want to go. I love you and dad, but I’m ready to die,” Sandra said from her tiny bed, raising her hand to me.
I returned to her side and sat down, trying to hold back the sobs in my chest. Josh sat on the floor and we stared at our girl. We told her how much we loved her. How much she had changed our lives. How it’s been most of our lives being her parents.
We kissed her forehead. your cheeks. Your hands. We hoped she would be better, but there was a look in her eyes as if she knew it was over.
And we fell silent as her eyelids fell. she was gone
I had never cried so much in my life. I had never seen Josh so desperate. We had no idea what to do after Sandra. Who were we without her? Why did God have to take our girl?
My only consolation was that Sandra had been happy and passed on her terms. We respected her wish. We have done our best for them. We did well. I had to believe in it to keep going.
A few days after her death and funeral, I found a notebook in which she had written in her barely legible childhood handwriting.
This week was the best ever. I played with dad and mommy let me eat all the ice cream. I love my parents. Life is good.
I had no more tears to shed, but I still stood frozen and read those words over and over again. As Josh read them, he immediately took a purchased frame we had saved and put the notebook page inside.
“Let’s always remember our girl Violet,” Josh said to me and I nodded.
We hung it in our living room as a daily reminder that despite all the suffering, pain, struggles, surgeries, worries, impatience, tears and despair, our girl was a happy child. A simple child who loved us as much as we loved her.
What can we learn from this story?
Doctors never want to give bad news to people because their job is to save people. Violet wanted to scold and yell at the doctor, but her daughter’s condition wasn’t his fault or anyone else’s. It was part of life.
Having a sick child is one of life’s worst trials and parents can only do their best. Violet and Josh could find solace in the fact that despite all the struggles, Sandra had been a happy child. It was all because they did their best for her.
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