The Ribbon

                  

Sweet Child, buried in her Mommy’s arms. She has no idea what stirs beneath Mommy’s warm body. With each hug the cells divide quicker than the last. Every kiss has to be savored, for Sweet Child doesn’t realize it may be the last. Mommy hugs closely refusing to let go until the day she is forced to unwind her arms from Sweet Child.

Mommy is tired, but doesn’t know why. Something is wrong, but what could it be? Only a few weeks’ time will tell. The day when everything becomes clear will be forever etched into Sweet Child’s memory. The months following will change the way she views life. This life experience will shape Sweet Child.

Unknown to all, the time is drawing near. A few more hours and life will never be the same. Mommy, Brother and Sweet Child are playing. A mixture of arms, legs, and feet engulf the king-sized bed where the game is taking place. Brother’s foot flies from the mixture and hits Mommy in the chest. Pain rips through her body and the game comes to an end.

Days go by and the look of agony remains on Mommy’s face. She begins to worry and checks if everything is okay. Is it possible that something is there? Daddy takes Mommy to the doctor while an unaware Sweet Child is at school. She sits in her chair and takes a spelling test, while Mommy sits in her chair and waits for her tests. School is over now and Sweet Child’s world is about to change.

Something is not right, Daddy is nervous and Mommy is as pale as a ghost. Daddy tells her to go upstairs and lay down. Sweet Child looks to Daddy with innocent eyes. She is too young to understand how serious things are. Sweet Child pleads to go upstairs and be with Mommy, but Daddy just holds her close and thinks of ways to make Sweet Child understand. “Mommy is sick and needs to rest”, he tells Sweet Child. For now she accepts this answer and asks Daddy for a snack. Daddy is tired and sad, but does his best to keep a cool façade.

It is time for school the next day and Sweet Child’s world is about to shift once again. Mommy takes her to school, but Daddy doesn’t go to work. He has been on the phone for most of the morning. Sweet Child gives Mommy one last kiss before running up the stairs to be with her friends. She chatters about what games they are going to play and what they are going to make in arts and crafts. Mommy takes one last look and leaves her Sweet Child to be happy in school.

The teacher’s voice rings out that school is over and Sweet Child runs out to find Mommy. She is nowhere in sight, but Daddy is there with Grandma and Grandpa. Without question Sweet Child runs into the arms of Grandma and Grandpa thinking they are here to visit. Everyone piles into the car to head home. Sweet Child rambles about what she did in school and all the things they are going to do.

When Daddy pulls into the driveway Sweet Child rushes to the door to tell Mommy about Grandma and Grandpa coming to visit. Before she could race up the stairs Grandma grabs her into a hug and gently tells her that Mommy needs to rest. Sweet Child doesn’t understand why Mommy needs to rest all the time, but listens to Grandma and asks Daddy for help on her homework.

At dinner time, Mommy comes to the table tired and paler then she was a few days ago. Daddy looks at Mommy and Mommy silently tells Daddy that it is time. Daddy nods in response and takes a deep breath. Sweet Child is worried that she had done something wrong, but Daddy’s face is not angry, it is sad. “Mommy is very sick,” Daddy begins, “and needs to go to the hospital. I don’t know how long she will be there but the doctors will make sure she gets better.”  Sweet Child doesn’t understand and looks at Mommy to make things all better. Grandma talks before Mommy can, “Everything is going to be okay. Mommy will be better in no time.” Grandma has never lied before, so Sweet Child feels better. Everyone eats while Sweet Child tells Grandma and Grandpa all about the cools things she does in school.

After dinner Mommy gets up and goes back upstairs to sleep. Sweet Child watches some TV before bed, wondering how long it is going to take Mommy to get better. With a big yawn Grandma tucks Sweet Child into bed and wishes her pleasant dreams. Sweet Child wishes nothing more than for Mommy to come, tuck her in and give her a kiss instead. Grandma dims the lights and walks out of the room. Sweet Child lays in bed with gentle tears rolling down her face. Tomorrow morning Mommy has to go to the hospital.

The next morning Sweet Child rushes out of bed to say good-bye to Mommy. She cries and begs her not to leave. Mommy hugs Sweet Child even though she is in a lot of pain. Mommy kisses her and walks out the door with Daddy. Sweet Child cries out, but Mommy is gone. Grandma picks her up and hugs her close. Sweet Child clings to her as Grandma rubs her back whispering soothing words in her ear. When she has finally calmed Grandma takes her to the kitchen to have breakfast. Sweet Child’s face soon lights up with a smile as she helps Grandma make a Special Breakfast.

The Special Breakfast keeps Sweet Child busy that morning, but she wants nothing more than to be with Mommy again. A few days turns into a few weeks and Sweet Child wants to see Mommy. Every time she asks Daddy it was always the same answer, no. It isn’t fair Daddy gets to see Mommy every day, but Sweet Child and Brother stay behind with Grandma and Grandpa. After more waiting and a few more weeks Daddy finally lets Sweet Child and Brother go see Mommy in the hospital.

The hospital is cold and white and full of sick people. Sweet Child keeps her head down looking at the black and white tiles of the hospital floor. She missed Mommy, but was afraid of what she would look like. Daddy had said in the car that she is going to look different and may have even lost her hair. The hallway stretches on, but they finally make it to Mommy’s room. She is lying in bed and does look very sickly, but her face lights up when Sweet Child and Brother follow Daddy into the room. Mommy tells them to come, but Sweet Child stands where she is with tears rolling down her cheeks. Mommy smiles and assures her that everything is going to be okay. Sweet Child slowly begins moving toward Mommy. As she does Mommy’s smile spreads wider across her face. Sweet Child closes the gap and Mommy takes her hand. “Baby, there is no need to cry I am almost all better,” Sweet Child stands by the bed and sobs. Mommy uses all her strength to sit up rub, her head and assures her that things will be ok. She stays like that until Daddy says it is time to go. Sweet Child cries harder at the thought of leaving, but Mommy looks tired and drawn out. Mommy gives her one last kiss as Daddy takes Sweet Child’s hand and leads her out of the room.

This is the last time Daddy takes Sweet Child and Brother to see Mommy. Sweet Child’s days go on and she finds herself happy, playing with her friends and spending time with Grandma and Grandpa. The ache for Mommy is still there, but everyday Daddy comes home and says that Mommy is getting better and better. One day Daddy comes home early and for the first time he looks relieved. He gathers Sweet Child and Brother on his lap and tells them that Mommy is coming home. Sweet Child is so happy that she runs right to Grandma and Grandpa to tell them the great news. For the first night in months Sweet Child goes to bed knowing that everything is going to be all right.

            Mommy comes home and things begin to go back to normal. Mommy says that she may be a little different because of the medicine she is taking. Sweet Child is just so happy that Mommy is back.

***

That was fourteen years ago. Mom has been clear of Breast Cancer and every day I get to look into the face of a fighter. Watching mom compete every day for a cure, her life, and for us was a silent lesson forever etched into my heart. Every spring at Relay for Life I get to watch her take the survivor lap and tell everyone what my mom has overcome. For the next lap I hold my head high and walk arm and arm with her. The pink ribbon pinned to her shirt lets the world know she did not lose her battle with cancer. The young woman on her arm lets everyone know she is a fighter, just like Mommy.

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