August is ending, and there is a sense of anticipation in the air as people rush around preparing for school to start next week, as they try to cram one more cottage weekend into the summer, as they pull out sweaters to ward off the chill from the late summer evenings.
Things are changing at our house too. Just like the season is beginning to change again, so is Stella.
She has been sleeping off and on for the last nine days and struggled with fevers and constipation. Today, she hasn’t woken up at all yet. She is no longer eating and has had only small sips of milk and a few spoonfuls of ice in the last few days. Her body is still here, but I fear she is already somewhere far, far away.
Although Stella has scared us several times in the last 14 months, each time Aimee and I braced ourselves for the worst only to have Stella bounce back, this time is different. We are not naïve. We know that without food or water Stella won’t live very much longer. We called our families today and told them that we feel it is time for them to start coming, to gather together to create a nest of warmth and peace for Stella.
Is it possible that Stella will come out of this and bless us with more smiles, more memories and more time? Of course. Anything is possible. But the odds are not good. She is so thin that her clothes fall off her so I put her in Sam’s old shorts this morning…shorts for a 6-month old. She is dehydrated so the urine in her diaper is so concentrated it’s almost brown, and only the size of a twoonie. Her body knows it doesn’t need food anymore, so it doesn’t allow her to open her mouth to take any in. Yet despite all of this, Stella is resting peacefully like a lovely angel on her couch, pain-free and as delicate and beautiful as a spring flower-petal newly opened to the sun.
The great chasm of distance has begun between Stella and us…Stella and you…Stella and this world.
I was thinking today as I held her limp body on my lap how the idea of distance is almost a foreign concept with today’s connected world. Someone on the other side of the world can look and feel like they are right there thanks to the advent of skype. People can see exactly what you are doing at the time you are doing it thanks to cell phones, twitter accounts, facebook. There is a sense that we are always connected, always aware of what’s going on which makes distance feel almost non-existent. But the one place where there is a huge distance is between the living and the dead. It is much trickier to navigate the realities of not having someone around when you want them to be there and when you need them to be there.
Distance is not for those who fear it, it is only for those who are brave enough to spend a lot of time missing someone in exchange for a spending little time loving them. It’s about being present to a good thing, even if that goodness is temporary. It’s about realizing that the only thing that truly bridges distance is love.
And so, with not much more left that Aimee and I can offer Stella right now, we have refocused our efforts on reassuring her. All day today we took turns holding her and whispering in her ears that she is safe, she is treasured, she is loved. We tell her she is our girl, and remind her of how special she is. This afternoon as she slept, I curled up next to her on the couch and held her frail body as close as I could. Her bony shoulder became a pillow for my head, her warm neck caught my tears, her skinny legs slung across my hips anchored me to the moment, and her breaths fanned my eyelashes, reminding me to take everything just one moment and one breath at a time.
Right now, we just watch and wait and stroke Stella’s hair and memorize each part of her face and listen to the rain pound on the windows. We just hold each other and focus on emotional closeness, even as physical distance closes in on us.
Tonight as we go to sleep, we ask that
If you believe, please believe we will make it through this.
If you light candles, please light a candle to brighten the darkness that is to come.
If you pray, please pray for Stella’ comfort.
If you are lucky enough to love someone, tell them they are loved.
Gracie and Stella watch Cinderella together (Sunday August 19th):
Aimee, Stella and Sam go to Thunder Beach for the day (Saturday August 25th):
The three kids at Riverdale Farm—only Sam was awake for the trip, but it was fun nonetheless!— Sunday August 26th:
Good night sweet girl (Taken tonight, Monday August 27th):