The plinking of the rain reminded her of the day she lost her little girl. It had also been a rainy day. So
cliché, she thought, raining on the worst day of my life. She knew it had been coming for some time.
Chloe had been diagnosed with leukemia when she was only four years old. The diagnosis came on the heels of the two-month anniversary of the death of Sharon’s mother. The news literally brought her to her knees. Sharon had only one other child, Matthew. She did not know how she would ever tell him that his little sister was so sick.
Chloe was unaware of how serious that doctor’s visit was. She was only four of course. To her it was just another check up. Leukemia meant nothing to her and she quietly played with her snuggle bunny in the corner. Moving his legs this way and that, to a song she was singing. Laughing occasionally as he bent over to touch his toes and shakes his butt with her music.
She was a sweet girl.
Sharon listened intently to the rain. She had gone back to Chloe’s room for the third time that day. Some days she went in often, usually just lying on her bed and clutching the girls faded patchwork bunny that still had the mustard stain from that day at the restaurant. Chloe never went anywhere without her snuggle bunny, and Sharon could still smell her on it.
She pulled the bunny from her chest and noticed a single strand of brown hair, which had become woven in to the bunnies’ ear. Slowly she pulled the strand of hair, being careful not to break it. As it came free she began to think how odd it was that she was holding a piece of her daughter, when the rest of her was buried in the ground.
She recalled the day she was getting Chloe ready for her Mothers funeral. The girl had asked where her Grandmother was. Heaven, Sharon had said without hesitation. She told Chloe that Grandma was probably relaxing somewhere by a river with her husband who had died when Sharon was 8. That Grandpa Joe was waiting for her to come home to him and she was now out of the pain that caused her so much misery in life.
Now that Sharon had lost her child she wasn’t so sure that God even existed. She had been a devout Catholic her entire life. But how could this God she had grown up loving and thinking loved her, could let her baby be taken away before her time was done. It wasn’t fair and she had cursed God lying in her bed sobbing more times than she could count. If he existed she hated him now in her grief. More than likely, she thought, he didn’t. He had been a tale to keep people peaceful in their last hours.
She thought back to the hospital room in those days of her time with Chloe. She had tried so hard to save her tears for when the girl was sleeping. How could she do it? How could she survive without her? How could she survive having her heart and soul ripped from her? The little girl that she remembered clutching to her breast after 9 hours of labor, searching for her breast. The warm cheek on her chest, the tiny fingers she held in her hand, and above all those big brown eyes that could pierce right through you when she stopped to give you her attention.
She wouldn’t do it. She wouldn’t let her die. She was a desperate mother and miracles happened every day, She remembered hearing so many stories of children responding to treatment and fully recovering. Her daughter was strong she could do it. Sharon imagined telling the story of her miraculous recovery on her wedding day 20 years from now. “ I just knew Chloe was fighter from the moment she was born” she would say and tears would fall from everyone at the event. She would look to her baby girl “you beat it”. But three days later Sharon would be clutching the hospital sheets, screaming at the doctors that it was their fault, if only they had done more. When she finally had the strength to rise to her feet and walk out of the room, she looked one more time at her beautiful girl. Sleeping, she thought, she’s only sleeping. She will wake up and wonder why we are all crying. It didn’t happen. She walked back to her bed. She held the girls chubby little fingers that she had watched so many times color her pictures, mold her flowers out of play dough, and best of all when they would end up on her cheeks while giving her a kiss. Now they would be cold forever. She kissed her forehead, cheek, and finally lips. Leaving her behind for the last time.
The rest of her day was a blur. She couldn’t remember where she had gone after and she couldn’t remember who she had seen or what condolences they had offered.
She got out of Chloe’s bed and started looking around at the girl’s things. All neatly put away, waiting for her to get better and come home from the hospital. It never happened, she thought.
Sharon had started the process of healing after months of sleeping all day, wondering how to put one foot in front of the other. As she circled Chloe’s chest of toys she noticed the ballet slippers she had bought her as a gift for Christmas one year. Chloe had decided that she was going to be a ballerina. She would twirl and jump and try to walk on her toes. The girl loved the slippers. Sharon caught her, after she had outgrown them, putting tiny fake gems in the toes. Chloe had decided that she would use it as a treasure holder now that she couldn’t wear them anymore.
Sharon looked in the toe of the right shoe, and saw a red plastic ruby. She picked it up and held it to the light, remembering all the little treasures she had found over that last year. She looked in the toe of the left shoe and saw a piece of paper that had been neatly folded. “NO” she thought. She had looked in these shoes more than two dozen times and always pulled out the same red and green gems. Where was the green one? She took out the paper and there it was, still in the toe.
Slowly she unfolded the paper she had found. How funny, Sharon had thought, pink construction paper. Pink had always been Chloe’s favorite color. She always had followed every stereotype for a little girl. Pink, ballet, ponies, dolls. Not sure what to expect, or even how the paper had gotten in the shoe she turned it over and smoothed out the creases.
Sharon had the breath knocked out of her. It was a drawing from Chloe. But it was not one she had ever seen, and she wondered how it got in the toe of the ballet slipper. On the pink folded paper was a picture of her with her grandmother and grandfather having a picnic by a river. Under the picture it had the word Happy written in purple crayon. Sharon fell onto her hands and knees and wept for the little girl she lost. She wept for the mother and father she lost. But she also wept for the joy she felt knowing that they were all taking care of each other and would greet her when she went home.