A sick, ten year old girl who has been paralyzed since birth tells us the story of her last days.
Fever, a poem by Avalyn Rose Cadmium.
Hot enough to burn your skin
Organs writhing from within
Yet feeling cold as winter’s bite
Shivering, freezing, on a snowy night
Vision blurred with Fever’s lies
Hallucinations come alive
Brighter than the sun’s own light
Blotting out your own, short life
Hanging on only by a thread
Falling faster, but safe in your bed
Griping for your last moments here
Knowing that your end is near
Try to whisper, scream, or yell
Begging, pleading, with yourself to tell
But the three words you couldn’t say die in your throat
Did they know? You can only hope.
I wrote that today. It’s a pretty poem; I bet Mama would like it. I gave up on trying to tell her my poems a long time ago. I have them nice and pretty in my head, but when I try to let them out, it just sounds like noises. But Mama doesn’t seem to mind. She smiles and talks right back to me, like we’re having a conversation. I've never had a real conversation before, so I like to pretend with Mama. I’m glad she moved me back home; I was in a hospital for a while. One day, the beat machine next to my bed messed up the beat; it kept getting faster and faster, and as it got faster Mama’s eyes got wider and wider, and then Daddy came in and called the pretty car with the blinking lights, and they took me to the hospital. I know it was a hospital because Mama was on the phone in my room, calling everybody “Hey, it’s me, Avalyn’s in the hospital… No, she’s ok now, but it scared the crap out of me… I know, she doesn’t have a lot longer, but that doesn’t mean… Ok, well I just wanted to let you know.”
Her voice sounded sad, but when she turned around she was smiling. Except her eyes. Her eyes weren’t smiling their special Mama smile. She came over to the bed and pet my hair, humming a song under her breath. When nobody is home with us, she sings to me, but she makes me promise not to tell. But even though Daddy was outside in the hall, she hummed in my ear and pet my hair and helped me go to sleep. The next morning she was gone, and the room was cold and dry, and it tasted like hospital air. Sterile and filled with cleaners, and sickness, its taste filled my mouth and floated over my tongue. I stayed up for a while, thinking that maybe someone would come in and talk to me about why my beat machine got messed up, or even just turn on the T.V., but the only people that went in and out were my nurses, and even though I moved around and made noises at them, they just rolled their eyes and gave me medicine through a tube. But I’m not mad.
I was alone in my hospital room, my prison of blue. The curtains, the bed spread, the walls, and the little bit of pillow case I could see, if I tried really hard to turn my head, were blue. The only things that weren’t were the railings on the bed, the floor, and the red light that showed up on the wall across from me from time to time. But I’m not mad. This is how it is most of the time, in the hospital or in my room at home. Just me, parked on my bed, with four walls, a ceiling, and a floor, decorated with pretty things. Some days the T.V or some music is on, and I like those days. Sometimes I try to practice singing, like Mama does, but I don’t use words most of the time. I think it’s really pretty. I’m sure Mama would like it. I’ll have to show her soon, before I have to go.
Mama explained to me a long time ago that I wasn’t like other people. She told me not to be mad, but what did I have to be mad for? I have a Mama that loves me, a room of my own, decorated with pretty things. I don’t get sad because I can’t walk. There’s more than enough to see in my cozy little room. I watch Mama’s face a lot; notice the changes in her mood within it. Last year, little wrinkles started showing up, and they’re getting more noticeable by the month, but I don’t mind. Wrinkles show how old you are. And if you’re like me, being old is something to be treasured. She also told me the doctor said I wouldn’t live past seven, but I’m ten now. What do I have to be mad for?
After thinking about that for a long time, I fell asleep, and I guess the doctor had told Mama they could bring me home. They wrapped me up in my pink sweater Mama knitted for me on my eighth birthday. I hadn’t grown much since then, so it still fit. Then they moved me and my machines into my stroller, and gave me sleepy medicine so I wouldn’t get too overwhelmed by all the stuff to look at. When I get really excited, sometimes it gets hard to breathe, and whenever I get to look at new stuff, I get really excited. When I wake up again, I write my poem Fever, because I don’t feel good, and I think I have a fever. I’m in my room, and the lights are off, which means I should be sleeping, but I can’t sleep, so I think I’ll write a poem for my Daddy. I haven’t seen him in a long time, since I was seven. But I’m not mad. He’s probably scared of me right now. Or not even scared of me, but scared of death. I used to be, but I’m not any more. I decided I’m going to be an angel.
Angel, a poem by Avalyn Rose Cadmium
Daddy’s little angel
I thought that’s what my name was when I was little
When you still came into my room every day
Held my hand and told me you loved me
Daddy’s little angel
I will be, forever, in my heart
I don’t have wings or a halo
But I made you shine
Daddy’s little angel
I can’t see you when you’re not here
But I know it when you’re close
I love you near or far
Daddy’s little angel
Even though I can’t move
I would move the heavens to see you, Dad
I would search the whole world and more
I guess I will, someday
When I can see you from above
I’ll really be Daddy’s little angel
My dreams are filled with angels tonight. It’s a pretty dream, but soon it fades away. But I’m not mad. Their still imprinted on the backs of my eyelids, like a pretty picture. When I was dreaming, I thought maybe it was because of my poem, but now that I’m awake, I think it was God talking. Mama used to talk about God a lot. She told me she would beg for him to save me, beg for him to make me better. He never did, but I’m not mad. I never prayed to God myself before, but I guess he was listening to my thoughts anyway, because when I wake up, my Daddy is sitting right there. I close my eyes before he sees that I’m awake, if only so that I can have a moment to thank God for listening last night. When I open them again to look at him, he is looking straight back at me, like he’s trying to look for the real me inside my shell of sickness. I almost think he isn’t going to speak, start to think he’ll just sit and look at me for a long time. But that’s ok. I’m not mad. My Daddy’s here.
Then he takes a breath, and his voice is only a whisper. Like he’s trying not to scare me, when really, he’s the one who’s shaking. “I’m so sorry, Avalyn, so so sorry.” He looks at me again, trying to figure out if I understand, and if I forgive him. “I shouldn’t have stayed away for so long, it’s just…” Another breath, and now he’s looking down at his pants, his hands clasped together to try to keep them from shaking. “Angel,” he begins, and my heart soars, “Angel, my baby girl, I’m so scared. I didn’t want you to leave me, baby, and I guess I told myself if I left first, then it would be better for me that way. But it’s not, it wasn’t, and I realized I would never be able to forgive myself if I never saw you again.” Then he starts sobbing, deep, scary sobs, ones that look like they’re draining him, taking everything he has. Don’t cry, Daddy. Please, don’t cry. You’re here now, and I love you, and I was never mad. But I can’t say the words out loud, and those awful sounds are still leaving him. So I do the one thing I can think of right now.
I open my mouth and sing to him. Sing like Momma does for me when she’s upset. It makes me happy when she sings, so maybe it will make Daddy happy, too. At first my voice is kind of scratchy, so it only makes him cry harder, but then I just let all of my voice out, let it go where it wants to, and he looks up at me, his eyes blurred from tears and his mouth half open like he forgot to close it. Then he gets up, and leaves the room. No, Daddy! Don’t leave again! I only wanted to make it better. But then he comes back with something in his hand, and he plants himself in the chair next to me, and shows me what he has. “It’s a camcorder, Angel. It listens to your voice and then captures it, so you can listen again and again. Will you let me capture it? Please, baby?” And of course, I can’t say yes, so I just make excited sounds at him, and look at the camera. And for the first time, I think someone finally understands. Really understands. Understands I can think, and communicate, that I can understand. And that is the next best gift God gave to me today. Daddy opens up the voice-capturer, and tells me to sing when I’m ready. This time there is no scratchiness, no quietness, or pauses. I let every part of me help my voice to sing.
When I’m done, I aim a dazzling smile at Daddy, but he has the voice-capturer up to his eye, so I look through that, at him. He hits a button on the side and shuts it, then takes it away from his face. There are teardrops falling like rain from his eyes, in big fat rivulets, and I start to feel bad for making him cry again, but then he gives a little laugh, just a little one, and I know I did well. I made my Daddy proud of me. He walks over to me, to my bed this time, not the chair, and holds my hand. “You are the most beautiful thing in the whole world, my Angel. I love you.” He sits next to me and puts my small hand on his face, and closes his eyes for a while. When he opens them, they are the happiest eyes I have ever seen, and I decided that those are his special eyes, his special Daddy eyes.
“I’ll be right back, baby.” He says, and he is gone again. But this time, I don’t feel so alone. I know that God is next to me, and he gave me everything I wished for, and even more. Just like Daddy told me, he came right back and sat by me on the bed, with a small book in his hands, and I am confused. Is Daddy reading to me? But then he opens it, and I see that it’s full of pictures. The two of us take a long time looking through it, until we look at a picture of Daddy and Momma holding a little baby girl between them. I guess that’s me. They look about as happy as I’ve ever seen them, and I make noises to show how happy it makes me. Daddy turns his head to the side to look at me, then he smiles, and he has such a pretty smile. He slides the picture from the little holders and gets up. He sets it on the chair and puts it so I can see it, then comes back over and caresses my face with his big, warm hands. “So you’ll never be alone.” Then he kisses me on the head, “Goodnight, my Angel. I love you.” And as soon as he turns off the lights, I am asleep.
I wake up very early the next morning, before Momma or Daddy is awake, because I have something important to do. And it’s going to take a long time, but I know I can do it. Momma and Daddy wake up after a while, and I stop as soon as I hear their alarm. I smile to myself, at my little secret, and take pride in my determination. Then, funny enough, Daddy is bringing Momma into the room, and he starts fussing over me. Brushing my hair and getting me dressed takes a long time with one person, so Momma helps, and in a little bit, they are done. But I’m not sure what I’m all dressed up for. Then Daddy leaves with a promise to Momma. “You’ll love it honey. I promise.” Then he winks at me and leaves the room. Not too much later I hear voices, Daddy’s and others, as he greets them into our home. Then footsteps get closer and closer, and he comes back with a parade of people following him, all of them with big voice-capturers on their shoulders. They all stand across from me, and I hear a lot of clicks as they set the machinery on stands, and they’re all pointed at us.
“Honey, what is going on here?” Momma asks him, her eyes wide at all of the people. And Daddy just smiles his big, bright smile, and says. “Hold on, this isn’t even the surprise yet.” He turns to the people and asks if they’re ready, and they all eventually give consent. Then he stands up very straight and looks directly at the voice capturers. “For everyone who is listening, I sent a video to each of the camera-men filming me and my family yesterday, pleading with them to come and tape the beauty of my daughter, Avalyn. I know she doesn’t look like much, but she is the most amazing ten year old a father could ever ask for. The doctors told us she wouldn’t live past seven, and yet, she has made it here, to today, to share her joy and loveliness with the world.” Then he turns and leans down to me, and whispers something in my ear. And then I know why Daddy brought all of these men here. He brought them so that they could watch and listen to me, sharing myself with my family in my own special way.
A smile spreads across my face as he asks me again to let the voice-capturers listen to my voice, and it is the best thing in the whole world. I turn my head to look at them, and say, as clearly as I can, “Momma, Daddy.” They burst into silent tears at my own surprise, and come and sit next to me, each of them holding a hand. And then I let my whole being take part in letting my voice out, give everything I have to it, and as I go on, all of the people in the room are crying, but I know now that they are happy tears, and happy is all I ever wanted to make the world. When I’m done, I speak again. “Momma, Daddy, I love you.” Then the fever I hoped had left came back with me in its vice, and instead of dragging me down, it lifts me up, up to the heavens. And even as my heart slows, and my machines go crazy, everything is nice. Because I know I am about to become a real Angel.