Missy was late! She had to get to the hospital, she had promised her mom she’d be there every day.
Things weren’t the same anymore, not since Missy’s Mom had been sick the first time. Now, she was always sick. “She used to pick me up from school every day” Missy thought, as she ran along Oak street as fast as her legs would carry her.
“It’s not fair!”, Missy cried, to no one in particular. Why is my Mom the one who’s sick? Why couldn’t it be someone else’s mom? What had Missy done to deserve this? As she ran, all of these thoughts paraded around in her mind once again.
This wasn’t the first time Missy had run from school to get to the hospital. “Stupid Mr. Betcher!” She exclaimed in exasperation. “It’s his fault I’m late.! I could have gotten that dumb book anytime, why’d he have to make me wait for so long?”
Mr. Betcher was Missy’s third grade reading teacher, and under normal circumstances, he would have rated fairly high on her list of “teachers I like”. Tonight, however, he was not someone Missy liked. Tonight, he was the devil, because he had made her late to visit her mom. And if Missy was late, mom would worry, and mom shouldn’t have to worry, what with everything she was going through.
What was it the doctor called it again? Brain stem Glioma? Cancer! Mommy has a brain tumor, and they can’t operate!! Why???!! Missy was running full bore now, having turned into the parking lot from Oak street. Her mind was racing as fast as her legs. “I can’t believe my mommy’s dying.”, her mind whispered, in agony, as the stress of the five minute run from school, and all of the worry of being late came crashing down upon her. Tears streamed down her pretty face, she saw in her reflection off the glass.
She opened the heavy glass door, and dashed inside. “Gotta go left at the sign! Okay, now right at the end of the hall. Elevator!” Missy gasped, as she pressed the button, and waited for the door to open.
Missy was eight years old, and very bright for her age. Her mom had told her she must have been a “proggidy?” Oh!! What was that word!? She was tall for her age, also, which resulted in people usually thinking she was in fifth grade already, not third. Missy had jet black, curly hair that did whatever it wanted to, despite numerous attempts to tame it. Especially when it was hot and humid, the curls seemed to tighten, and her hair would then sprout at different angles from her head.
She was a beautiful child, with green eyes, and pastel skin, smooth as silk. In truth, she almost could have passed for a china doll, had her eyes not been so large, and her hair so curly. Her eyes were the most prominent feature on her face, round, and dark, sitting within a sea of foam. Some would have called her wide eyed and dreamy, only Missy was anything but dreamy.
She was the type of young girl who could hold articulated conversations with adults, and then be seen leading the neighborhood children on a hunt for butterflies and frogs to capture. She was a tomboy who played with dolls.
“Finally!” Missy rasped as the elevator opened. A tall bald doctor got off, and Missy got on. “Third floor” Missy whispered, as she pressed the button. “Gotta get there!” she said through gritted teeth, as she tapped her foot impatiently. The elevator door opened again, and she read the sign by the door to be sure. “third floor, 'kay”.
Missy was a remarkable young girl, but she was up against something no young child should have to face. Visiting her mother every day after school in the hospital seemed like the only thing Missy could remember doing for the last month. Half the time, her mother had not even been awake, nor aware that her daughter had been there. Missy was an only child, so her mother looked to her for more joy than a little girl could deliver.
Now, as she neared her mother’s room, Missy saw lots of people gathered near the door. There was Grandpa! And Auntie Jeannie. And what was Pastor Jack doing here? Usually he was busy telling bible stories about Noah, or something. Everyone was murmuring, almost whispering, Missy noticed, as she walked quickly toward the door, out of breath from her hasty journey.
Auntie Jeannie saw Missy, and fell silent, looking at Pastor Jack questioningly. Pastor Jack smiled softly at Missy, and then disappeared inside of the room. Missy heard him ask, “Ben, Missy’s here. Do you want her here for this?”
Missy thought, “Here for what? Why does everyone always think I shouldn’t be ‘here for this’ ?”
From inside of the room, Missy then heard her mother, very faintly answer, “Jack, I want to see my little girl. Bring her to me, please?”
Missy thought Mommy sounded weird; weaker, sicker, but no, that couldn’t be, it wasn’t supposed to happen yet, that wasn’t supposed to happen for weeks, maybe months….
Pastor Jack walked outside of the room again, and kneeled down as he reached Missy. “Missy, you’re Mommy and Daddy would like it very much if you would come see them.” He said. Then he stood, and offered his hand to her. Missy watched as a single tear emerged from his left eye, and fell all the way to his shirt collar. His voice cracking, he whispered, “quickly dear, your mommy wants to talk with you.” With that, Missy took his hand, and followed him into the room, where the doctor stood at the foot of the bed, along with daddy, and Mary, Mommy’s best friend.
It was very warm inside of Mommy’s room, too warm, like there were too many people there. Missy walked hesitantly toward her mom, as if in a trance, aware of everyone in the room watching her as she approached. Somehow, she had managed to wipe away the tears from her eyes before she got off the elevator, although she couldn’t remember doing so. She was suddenly glad that she had, so her Mommy wouldn’t have to be concerned. She was also very certain now that she didn’t want to be here, not if this was it.
“Come here, sweetie” her mom whispered, and Missy at once saw her. Mommy’s eyes were deep inside of her head, almost as if they were sinking. Her forehead was wrinkled in memories of pain. Once a very beautiful woman, Missy’s mother, Katherine Hobson, was now emaciated, and sallow, weakened by months of radiation, and chemical therapy. Where once there had been the same naturally curly hair that Missy possessed, now there were only thin streaks of stubble, where hair seemingly had once attempted to grow back.
Mom had removed the cap she had worn for the last month, revealing her baldness. Missy was glad, she had never liked the cap anyway. Before she got sick, Missy thought, mommy never wore caps. A glimmer of hope sped through her, as she reached for her mom’s outstretched hand.
“Hi mommy” she whispered back. “Feelin any better?”
Missy was always asking that question, eternally hopeful for the miracle of her mommy being cured. She prayed to Jesus for it every night, and sometimes cried it out to Him, missing her mommy at night, before she went to sleep. Being so young, she wasn’t used to not having mommy tuck her in for bed. Even just two months ago, mommy had read with her before bed, before she got too tired, and too sick to even do that anymore.
“Hi Missy…..Imissyouyesserday” Mommy croaked, just barely audible. Missy had become adjusted to listening for her mother’s voice, the quiet weakness of it, how her words no longer seemed to finish and separate, but became one long word instead. “ Why is my lil girl ou' of breath?”
Missy told her about Mr. Betcher making her late, and how she was very sorry, and that she really wanted to be here earlier. “Oh mommy, I ‘m sorry.” Then, for some reason, Missy began to cry. Maybe it was because of the silence in the room. Maybe it was the fact that no one seemed to be able to look at her mom anymore, they all glanced at her quickly, and looked away, as if afraid to lock eyes with her.
Missy felt like she wanted to be alone with her mommy, but was afraid to ask in front of so many people.
“That’s okay darling……I’m gladyoumadeit……..” mommy slurred. "Please don' cry, Missy'"
Missy’s dad sat on the bed next to her mom, and looked solemnly at his daughter. He put his hand on hers, it was trembling.
“Missy…….Miss……” Then he started to cry. He held Missy’s gaze though, as tears streamed down his face, “My little girl, Mommy wants to say good….goodbye….to you. To me, to…” he looked around the room, at the many people gathered there, this one last time. “to all of us.”
Missy stared into her daddy’s eyes for what seemed like a year, and then nodded, as if she understood. The truth is, she did understand, but she didn’t want to.
“Mommy, are you dying? Right…right now?”
“Yes, baby” Mommy whispered. “ I talked with daddy this af..noon, an’ he thought t’was good idea tha' I wanted t’tell you this.”
Then, Mommy paused, and smiled. It was the first smile Missy had seen from her mom in weeks.
“Miss…you are such a good girl…I love you s’much….I want you t'do something for me, ‘kay?” Missy nodded, eager to please her mother, eager for anything that would make this moment last forever.
“want you…want you…to pray….t' ask Jesus….for help. Remember where I am, I’m with….Him. He’ll help ….you find me again. I wan you to know Him, Miss’……know Him, jus’ ‘emember me, where I am…..you can be with me forever, and with Him. Don’….forget Jesus, …’kay?” Missy nodded again, silently saying “yes mommy!” in her heart.
“Miss’ …I’m goin…’way now. I will see you ‘gain…..someday. Do you believe this?” Missy nodded a third time. “you are so special,….don’ forge’ tha’…….I love you. When you …pray….ask Jesus to help….you know the…truth….abou’ Him, an’ abou’….this worl’. He’s really there…and he’s here…..now…I can almost see Him. I feel Him……so …close…so close now. He’s always been….here. He’ll always be….here” With that, she tugged Missy toward her heart, and for one long moment, Missy felt strength in her mother’s arms again. Her Daddy was beside her, having been tugged toward her mom as well, and then, the strength of the hug failed, and Missy heard a long sigh.
When she lifted herself from her mother’s heart, she looked, and saw that her mom’s eyes were closed, and her lips were uplifted, as if in a smile. “Mommy….Mommy?” Missy whispered.
“Mommy?” Tears, and fear, suddenly all of the fear in the world that she had dreaded for so long filled her, and she whimpered. Her father gently lifted her off the bed, into his strong arms, and held her, rocking her back and forth in his arms, as her tears soaked his shirt, and his tears soaked her hair.
“Mommy’s with Jesus now, sweetie.”
Missy looked back toward her mom, toward the bed that she lay in for so long, and saw the smile on her lips, the last smile her mom gave her before she died.