The day she was born. When she grabbed my finger with her whole fist. Taking her home from the hospital; her warm, brown eyes widened in fascination. Sitting on her own. Her first smile. The first time she crawled. The day she took her very first steps. The most amazing sound ever made: her laugh. Her first day of school. Picking her up from school to find her clothes dirty from playing in the grass.
Then everything changed…The day she collapsed in class. Taking her back to the hospital for a scan. Learning she had leukaemia. Her eyes widening, terrified by the explanation. The first night we cried together. Her first chemo session. When her class delivered a ‘get-well soon’ card. Last day of school. The first night she got angry at me because I refused her sleeping over at a friend’s house. When her beautiful waist-long hair began falling out. Taking Andrea out for the first time in months. Her face glowing with awe as we watched the fireworks. Screaming into my pillow that night distraught. Christmas day when she fainted and grew too weak to walk. Increasing the chemo sessions. Moving permanently into the hospital. Our last laugh. Being told she only had weeks left to live. Her last smile. Asking what heaven looks like. My last smile. Watching her sleep peacefully for the very last time.
Every moment we shared together plays endlessly in my head. The scrap of material in my hands becomes more crumpled as I grip it tighter. Her blanket. It still smells of her: baby oil and jasmine. So intoxicating. The last week has been a daze; I’ve been numbingly going through everyday having no care for what’s been happening. It’s too painful to focus on something else. She consumes me.
As if finally waking up from insomnia, I scan my surroundings and it dawns on me where I’ve ended up. I have no recollection of getting dressed this morning or traveling here. People are dressed head-to-toe in black and sobbing into their handkerchief’s as they sit facing the front. There’s a Priest standing beside the altar. A carving of God’s son. We’re in a church. There’s also a small coffin. “Please rise,” the Priest says. I follow his command.
Suddenly a loud cry fills the church. It’s full of anguish. Shock. Grief. It doesn’t stop. It captures everyone’s attention. My leg buckles from underneath and I fall onto the cold, marble floor. My throat tightens and the cries become strangled. My heart beats excruciatingly against my chest. Please what I saw isn’t real…it’s not right…there must be a mistake…
‘Andrea Combs. 25th July 2008 – 19th August 2013.
No longer suffering but playing with her fellow angels’.