The frost clung to the window of my hospital room. The late afternoon, nighttime sky was dotted with tiny white specks we as children came to know as the stars. Rainbow lights peeked over the edge and set any darkened reaches of the room a glow in a cheerful embrace. I was looking out the window, to the Detroit River that lie motionless beneath its thin blanket of ice; beautiful.
I sat there, feeling content with God and with life as I clung to the last moments of it on this Christmas night. I closed my eyes and began to pray, near pleading for acceptance. “sorry.” I whisper “I’m sorry.”
A knock breaks the silence of my prayer.
“Hey Marsi.” my brother Raymond comes in, biggest grin I think I’ve ever seen stretched across his meaty face. His three sons came trotting behind him and my two babies after them.
“Auntie Marsi!” my nephews, Derrick of eighteen, Brian of fifteen and Alex the youngest, being only twelve; all shout in unison crowding together in my boney clutch.
“Hey my sweeties.” I greet with spread open arms again.
“Hey mom.” my daughter Courtney quietly greets,
“Mommy!” my four year old angel, well angel hopped up on pop rocks and soda, came jumping up onto my bed squeezing my throat as hard as he could in his arms.
6 months earlier…..
“Good afternoon Miss Johnson.”
“Hello Doctor Burns, what’s the news?”
“there is no easy way to say this-”
“Spit it out doc the irony is killing me!”
An expression of deep sadness hid behind Dr. Burns’ gaze.
“Marissa- you have- you have stage three breast cancer, that lump on your chest it was-”
“Alright cut my boob off I can live without it, don’t need to feed anymore kids.”
“I’m afraid it is not that simple you see……”
The doctor went on describing my condition with a bunch of smart medical terminology that I wish I could understand, but, basically he said that all I’d go through, the chemotherapy and the psychiatrists, it would only delay and help me accept my unavoidable fate. The doctor finished speaking and I quickly gathered my things and lifted from the examination table.
“Thank you doctor.” I state coldly as I storm from the office, sobbing heavier and heavier with each thudding heartbeat. I can’t believe I would not get to see my daughter graduate from high school and make a life of her own, I won’t get to see my beautiful grand babies and I won’t be able to put the fear of God into the man that gave me such blessings. I wouldn’t get to see Brandon, my little baby turn into my little man, I wouldn’t even get to hardly know him! I cursed God and the Holy Spirit, I hated them, I hated everything, I cleaned and became the mother I never was, for this?
Back In The Present………
“who wants presents?” Raymond broke my trance,
“Presents!” Brandon cried as he pushed hard off of my chest, knocking the air out of me, but that was okay. Courtney smiled and looked at me for a second, holding the smile as she turned and softly made her way to the presents Raymond brought in a prop Santa bag, there was still a gag store tag hanging off the side of it.
The sounds of paper ripping and various different toned gasps of surprise and excitement danced through the small comfort room. Even Ethan, the arrogant one of my nephews had a face as red as an apple and a smile slowly peeling from it. “Skylanders!” Brandon pierces the eardrums of one and all. After admiring his gift, Brandon stood up and looked in Raymond’s laptop bag, which he probably brought to play World Of Warcraft while he stays in the family room for the night; my son pulls out a large artist’s envelope and carried it to my bedside.
“For you mom.” he grunts lifting it onto the bed and climbing up.
“Oh my goodness you shouldn’t have!” I state
“Courtney and me made that for you.”
I slide out the lavender construction paper, my favorite color and flip it over to reveal the words “Mommy, we love you more than anything in the world! You’re the best mommy ever! XOXOXO” written in bold black sharpie. Two face pictures were drawn beside the words, one of my daughter Courtney which she drew magnificently and one from Brandon that was nice for a four year old, but in my heart both were like the Mona Lisa to me. It was covered on the header and the footer with gold and green glitter that fell onto the bed sheets with the slightest shake, and serving as pillars to the glistening gold heavens of a child’s love, was four pictures, two on each side. The top left photo showed a picture of Courtney when she was just a newborn, we were in the hospital with me looking down into her closed eyes, I remembered exactly what I said to her “Hi Courtney I’m your momma, you put me through hell you little stinker.” I giggled as I felt a warm acrid tear slip past my raised upper lip. The top right held a similar picture but with Brandon now and this time I was looking at the camera with a white smile peeking through my colorless lips, I was exhausted on Brandon he was much harder than Courtney. The bases of the pillars of memory, were from modern times, when I first undergone chemotherapy. My once long, black, flowing hair was gone and replaced with a pink bandana. I was standing beside Courtney in our black dinner dresses, my favorite outfit possibly of all time, that shimmered with the flash of the camera; it pains me but I forgot where we went that day, but I can remember that the time before we left was exciting in itself. The right was me with the same pink bandana and Brandon with a half devoured chocolate cake lying on the table behind us and coated on our fingers and faces, was the same sweet, dark brown icing. Our grins were huge with chunks of the pastry stuck in between our teeth. I giggled at the picture and Brandon joined me, we turned our heads and laughed together, “what’s the matter mommy? Why are you crying?” his laughter stops being replaced with a look of worry.
“I just love it. I really do, I love It you guys thank you so much.” I motion my hand to Courtney to come closer, she listens and bends over me and I kiss her on the cheek and group hug her and Brandon once more. “Hey, listen Courtney, go in that drawer right there and pull out that blue box, it’s yours from me.”
“Mom you didn’t have to.”
“Trust me, I won’t need it.”
“What is it?”
“Just open the drawer and see for yourself!”
She slides the draw open and snatches the blue box instantly and closing the drawer gently. She lifted the top off of the box and gasped as I seen the golden reflection shine into her eyes.
“what is it?” Raymond asks
“Mom’s old charm necklace.”
“You gave that up Marsi? But you loved that!”
“I just felt she would take better care of it than me.”
Courtney was certainly the brightest bulb in the family attic, if you know what I mean. She was talented, she could play more instruments then I could count and she held a very nice four ‘o’ four on her report card. I am so proud of her, she truly was and always has been the shining beacon in my shady life. Brandon, it hurts me to say this but, he is too young for me to judge his character.
3 years earlier……….
The sky was blue with little to non clean white clouds. Leaves were spiraling through the air like a ballerina landing back into the hands of their partner. The wheels on Brandon’s stroller were creaking and cracking across the cement top, Courtney was walking beside me staring at the ground seeming to be deeply focused on each passing pebble with her hands shoved down into her jean pockets. Her brown hair waved with such grace in the wind; Then, she looked up at me and in a mother’s reflex I return the glance, curiosity was awakening behind her pupils.
“What is life, mom?” her green eyes glistened in the sun,
“That’s a bit random honey.”
“That’s okay. Life, well life is what you make it I guess or how you live it.” I reply in a leaning, cautious tone
“We don’t just live to live it do we?”
“Well of course not, some people, but not us or I hope so anyway.”
“I think I do it just because I have to.”
“Oh, come on honey, your still very young there’s not a lot you can do. What do you want to be when your older?”
“A stock broker.”
“Please Courtney, I’ve known you literally, for your entire life. What do you really want to do?”
“Well Grandma Mary said I wouldn’t get very far.”
“Don’t let other people decide who you are Courtney, only you can decide that.”
“Well- I want to be a musician a big famous one.” she giggled
“There we go. And you can do it, Grandma is just way outdated and believes that dreams should just stay as dreams, she was raised that way.”
“Okay.” she smiled,
“You have a beautiful, beautiful voice and can play countless instruments.”
She smiled again and looked back down to the sidewalk.
Brandon chipped in with the world famous baby gurgle that a loud, joyful cry of happiness followed,
“Yeah.” I reply in a mother to baby voice, acknowledging my son’s unknown discovery.
“How did dad die mom?” Courtney broke again
“woopsie-” I bent down to pick up a toy Brandon dropped, “well, a car accident you know that.”
I didn’t have the heart to tell her the truth, that her father died in a crack house on thirty first street with a needle in his arm and I wouldn’t be able to explain that her mother’s lips were to tight around a crack pipe to stop him.
We continued down the spiraling path, conversating and laughing at Brandon’s silly outbursts. These kids are my life, I love them and would do anything for them.
Back In The Present……..
I coughed violently as I returned to planet earth once more, my lungs began to burn and my throat felt like it had glass shards glued to the surface. When the coughing stopped I leaned back into my pillow and examined my once a hundred and eighty five pound belly, tracing the outline of my ribs. I slid the remote from behind my pillow and flicked the t.v on.
“Alright lets watch our traditional Christmas night, Christmas Story movie!” without a word everyone climbed onto my bed, even my largely built brother Raymond sat next to me with our kids all gathered around us. I changed the channel to ABC family and hit a stroke of luck as we entered onto the opening credits.
When the movie finished everyone either released a long yawn or stretched their bodies what seemed to be at least two inches. The kids got off the bed to go and play with their new gifts and Raymond called out to Derrick, “Bring my laptop over here will ya Derrick?” he leaned forward with a grunt as Derrick handed him the bag.
“Thank you, alright Marsi, I wanted to show you my new level ninety pandaren monk.” he flips open the screen and clicks on the golden W icon for World Of Warcraft. I use to play with him back in the Cataclysm days of Wow, obsessed with it in fact, raiding every week, a dungeon every day; but then I got sick and had to attend chemotherapy and got so weak I just wanted to sleep, so I never did get to play the new Panda expansion. He showed me the characters and all their moves and he finally closed the laptop and unplugged the chord.
“who is ready for a board game?” Raymond offers again,
“Oh Ray I am so tired, I need to get to sleep.”
“Come on Marsi!” he nudges the board game into my hands,
“Monopoly? Are you serious? It takes like three hours for the game to end!”
“Its Christmas come on!” Raymond begs
“Yeah auntie Marsi come on!” my nephews shout in unison,
“Look at Brandon though he is out cold on a hospital floor, which get him up Courtney please?”
“Well he is just a party pooper!” Alex assures
“Afraid I’m gonna win aren’t you?” Ethan says sarcastically
“come on Aunt Marissa I need someone to get money from!” Derrick ends.
So I finally give him, probably on the count of my brain being asleep, but still we play and we actually had a lot of fun Raymond won of course as he did when we were kids, but now everyone was beat yawns after yawns Ethan laying his head on a pillow then jolting up.
“Alright time for bed you guys.” Raymond states yawning
“thank you that was a lot of fun.”
“don’t mention it and I knew I was going to win, I just didn’t want to spoil it.”
“I knew you were.” I chuckle
“Yeah.” he chuckled back
“And thank you for everything, for looking out for me when we were younger and stuff.”
He gave me a blank stare and smiled, I seen his eyes swell up with tears.
“eh hem, alright guys give Aunt Marsi a hug and wish her a merry Christmas.” he ordered pointing his cane in my direction.
My nephews listen and give me a bundle of tired hugs and merry Christmas’.
“I love you Marsi. Merry Christmas.” Raymond said gently.
I dragged Brandon up from his spot and in a average reflex he rested his head sideways on my shoulder and wrapped his tired arms around my neck. I don’t bother waking him up but I guess him on the forehead for a long time leaving my lips imprinted in saliva on his skin, and I hugged him gently and bounced him gently as I sung him the song “Gummy Bear” for some odd reason it use to always put him to sleep.
“I love you Brandon. Be good, mommy’s going to miss you.” I whisper into his resting ear as I weakly lift him into Courtney’s arms,
“Mom, don’t go.” Courtney chokes
“Baby, its going to be ok, you keep at it with your music, I’ll be there right next to you making sure you do.” I smile as tears began to gently race over my cheeks
“Momma-” she began to sob, “please-”
“shush, shush, I’m so proud of you Courtney, you’ve got a long way to go. Treat my grand babies right, I’ll still be able to kick you in the ass if you get out of hand.” I smiled a sad smile,
“Mom, thank you so much, you really were the best mother, everyone makes mistakes. I love you mo- momma.” she bent down quickly almost dropping Brandon and hugged us both as tight as she could and drenched my shoulder in tears.
“I love you too Courtney, merry Christmas.” she let go and looked at me a final time with a wet face and red tinted eyeballs, she wiped her nose and attempted a smile only for it to collapse into a mourning frown.
“Elephant shoe.” she said
My heart sank, she hasn’t said that since she was Brandon’s age, “Elephant Poo.” I laugh softly.
Then she turned and left with Brandon over her shoulder, everything seemed to slow down when they made a left for the door when I could see both of their faces, I smiled and sank back down into my pillow a final time and shut off all the lights so that the Christmas lights were all that lit my room. Me and my family both, knew that tonight was it, we just couldn’t grapple it. I am happy that it is now, I am happy that it was here with my close relatives on Christmas night that God chose to take me by the hand and lead me away from this planet; yes I am sad, but it will pass. I can watch my family from above, deliver them from all evil and let it not consume them as it did me, I sought forgiveness and being the kind king that God is has granted me that.
I wandered into a light, and I felt a peace unknown to any living man or woman, I was free leaving a fine young woman as my legacy and a baby boy whose purity and innocence will change the world.