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The Doors of Happiness
“Please, please come play with me,” Lilly tugged at the rim of my skirt.
“O.K.” I agreed. “Let’s play hide-and-seek. One…two…three….” I opened my eyes a crack and watched her run up the hill. “Ready or not, here I come,” I called, already chasing after her.
This memory flickered through my mind like the candles that were dancing in the dark room. “Does she know yet?” I whispered to my mother.
I leaned my head against the wall and sighed. “How will you tell her?” I asked.
“I’m not so sure. Do you have any ideas?”
“No,” I responded without even thinking.
The cuckoo clock struck 10:00.
“You should go to sleep, Abby.”
As I kissed my mother’s cheek, I felt a warm tear drip down.
I pulled my PJs over my brown hair and looked over at Lilly. She slept so peacefully. Did she know that even though she looked so beautiful curled up in bed like that, inside her was a war, a war between her white blood cells and cancer?
The next morning, I woke up early and dressed quickly. I tiptoed into the kitchen and gasped when I saw my mother sitting in her chair. “Why are you awake?” I asked.
“Couldn’t sleep,” she murmured. Her voice was quiet, gentle, and sad. I faced her and noticed she was weeping. I couldn’t remember the last time I saw her cry. I walked over and gave her a hug.
“It’ll be O.K.,” I said, patting her back.
“How do I tell her… how?” my mother whispered.
“Would you like me to?”
“Yes. No. Well I don’t know. Do you have the emotional energy to?”
Later, as I walked to school, I wondered whether it was the right thing to volunteer to be the one to tell Lilly the bad news.
“Abby will you please pay attention,” Mrs. Conklin’s voice interrupted my thoughts.
“I’m sorry, Ma’am,” I said. But even though my face looked like I was paying attention, my mind was still thinking about Lilly. When the bell finally rang at the end of class, my sixth grade teacher asked me to stay back for a moment to talk to her.
“Is everything alright?” she asked as the last student filed out of the classroom.
“Yes. I guess so.”
“Are you sure? Your face is all pale.”
“Yes,” I muttered. I looked at my shoe laces. I didn’t want her to see the tears swelling in my eyes.
“Well then, go and have some lunch. I think they’re having some extra yummy pizza today. And remember, if you change you mind or something comes up, you can always come and talk to me.”
“Do you want to come to the ice cream shop after school today?” Katie, my best friend, asked.
“No. My mother will get nervous if I don’t come home.”
“You could call her on my cell phone and ask,” Katie suggested.
“It’s O.K.. I’m not feeling so well.”
“Oh,” she said. “I’m sorry.”
At the end of school, Katie rushed up to me. “Are you feeling better?” she asked.
“No,” I replied.
“Can I walk home with you?”
I really wanted to walk home alone and think over my thoughts, but I didn’t want to be rude. So I agreed.
We walked quietly for five minutes. Then she said, “What happened Abby?”
That was all we said during the 15 minute walk.
We parted at the corner of Fairview Avenue. I continued on Post Road. As soon as she was out of site, I ran all the way home.
I looked around the house but it was empty. “Mom! Mom! Lilly! Dad!” I called over and over again, but there was no response. Then I saw a note on the kitchen table which read:
Dad and I took Lilly to the hospital for a test. Hopefully we’ll be back for dinner. Please call me when you come home from school.
I picked up the phone and dialed Mom’s number. No one answered. I called again. No answer. My stomach growled from hunger. When I finished making myself a piece of toast, I turned on the TV. After five minutes of watching, I shut it off. My mind couldn’t concentrate anymore. At 10:20 PM, my parents came home all gloomy.
“Where is she?” I asked.
The next morning I woke up early. As I was getting dressed I glanced over at Lilly’s empty bed. The sheets lay all crumpled at the foot of her bed, and her pillow was laying the wrong way.
“She’s strong, she’s strong.” I kept thinking. “But how strong could a little eight year old be?”
When I came down for breakfast, Mom and Dad had already finished theirs. Dad was looking at the morning paper. Even though his eyes moved back and forth, reading the small grayish black print, I could tell he was not concentrating on what the words said. Mom was wiping down the counters with a wet sponge. The look in her eyes told me that she, too, was thinking about something else-Lilly.
“Abby, your Mom and I thought that today we’d take you out of school and you could come with us to the hospital,” Dad announced.
“Is there anything special happening there today?” I asked.
“Yes. Dr. Goldstein is going to talk to us about Lilly.” Mom’s eyes filled with tears as she spoke.
When we arrived in the hospital an hour later, it was very busy. Doctors, nurses, patients, and visitors were scurrying in all directions. In one corner, I noticed a group of people wiping their eyes. When we got out of the elevator on the seventh floor, we saw a nurse racing toward the office at the end of the ward.
“Dr. Goldstein,” she called, pushing open the door. “The girl in room 713 just had an accident and when we came into the room, she had trouble breathing. She has symptoms that look like she had a stroke. Please come! We need you!” Quickly they rushed past us and disappeared behind the door without even glancing to see who we were.
“Do you remember in what room Lilly was?” Mom asked Dad.
“No. But I have the paper somewhere in here.” He started digging through his huge pockets that were full of everything. At the end, after pulling out tissues, pens, chap sticks, many pieces of paper, and a sucking candy, he pulled out a crumpled index card that had a small number scribbled on the corner. After a quick glimpse at it, his face turned red, then white and again red.
“Room 713.” He whispered.
“No.” Mom said, clasping her hands to her cheeks.
“Do we wait out here for them to call us in so we don’t disturb them? Or should we go in and see how she is?” Dad asked.
“Let’s go to the front desk and see if we should go in. They might have gotten an update about what happened.”
“Next!” The lady to the front desk called. We staggered over to her and my dad said, “We’re here to see Lilly Fisher, and to hear of any new news.”
The lady typed something into the computer and stood up. “I’ll be back in a minute.” Then she went through the “Employees Only” door.
Two minutes later, a nurse walked out. “Are you the Fisher family?”
“Yes.” I answered nervously.
“Please follow me.” She gave me a weak smile. “I’m Vikki. I work here as a nurse.”
“Here,” she said as we walked into the small office at the end of the seventh floor hallway. As soon as the door closed behind us, my mother burst out telling Vikki all what we saw and overheard.
“Yes, that’s what I’m here to talk to you about.” She said when my mother quieted down. “Well, this is how it goes. One of the nurses just came in to do the normal check up. Blood pressure, listen to the lungs, and to see if she needs anything. When the nurse came, she saw Lilly looking very weak, confused, and dizzy. Those are some of the symptoms that sometimes occur before a stroke.” At this point Mom’s looked like she could faint any moment. “The nurse immediately went to call Dr. Goldstein who gave her some medicine, and did some tests. At the end, Dr. Goldstein declared that it was not a stroke.” Mom gave a sigh of relief. “But still, the cancer in her lungs is spreading so quickly. He will be here in a few minutes for the meeting you have scheduled.” And with that, she left the room.
We all sat restlessly while waiting for Dr. Goldstein to come. He sat down on his big black leather chair, gave us all a very serious look, and said, “As I told you a few days ago, she has lung cancer. I did a few more tests on her now and I have come to discover that her cancer spread to a big part of the lung, the pleura, which is the wall and lining of the lung and part of her airway.” During all of Dr. Goldstein’s explanation, Mom was paying close attention. With every word he said, her eyes grew wider and wider until at the end, she burst into tears. Dad put a comforting arm around her and wiped his eyes, too. The doctor took a package of Kleenex and passed her the box.
“I know it’s hard,” he said. “But she can make it. She seems like a strong girl to me.”
“Hopefully.” Mom muttered back.
“She has lung cancer which has metastasized, which means that it is spreading. Cancer is a group of cells that grow in an uncontrolled way and they may grow into a tumor. For removing the cancer, we will have to do an operation and then probably after the surgery, she will get chemotherapy. I think it is best if we do the operation either tomorrow or the next day. I don’t advise pushing it off for too long, so the tumor won’t keep growing.”
Mom whispered something to Dad. Then Dad said, “O.K, let’s do it.”
“Excellent. Here, please fill in these forms that give me permission to operate on your daughter.” While Mom and Dad filled out all the forms and signed, I looked at the walls of Dr. Goldstein’s office. They were all covered in different awards that he had won. “Lilly will be O.K.,” I told myself. “Dr. Goldstein is such a good doctor for winning all the awards; he will take good care of Lilly.”
After Mom and Dad filled out the forms, Dr. Goldstein started telling them some of the details of the surgery. I was only half listening. But when he got up to all the risks surgery has, I stood up and left the room, unable to bare the thought that one of them might be true. I walked up the hallway to Lilly’s room. A strong smell of sewage stung my nose as I came in.
“What’s this smell Lilly?” I asked.
“Don’t you smell it?” I sniffed in deeply. Then I noticed a small chart pinned to the wall. The page was labeled: “Lilly Fisher’s diaper changes.” In the fifth square down, 7:30 AM was scribbled. The red clock hanging on the opposite wall read 11:15 AM.
Unexpectedly Lilly said, “Abby, do you know that I have cancer? Dr. Goldstein said that I might get an operation. Mom says everything will be all right and that I’m strong. Do you think that’s true Abby? Do you think I really am strong and will be able to get rid of it?” She looked at me with begging eyes. I knew the answer we both wanted to hear.
“Yes.” I said. I bent down and gave her a hug, trying not to knock the tubes going into her wrist. As I stood up, I quickly wiped my eyes. I knew that if she saw me crying, she’d start crying, too. When Mom and Dad came, I left the room, and said I’d give them some time alone with Lilly.
While I waited outside the room, I wondered whether it was right to lie to Lilly. But it’s not a lie I told myself; it’s going to became true.
Mom and Dad were going to stay in the hospital overnight to be with Lilly. Mom arranged for Mrs. Groesbeck to bring me home from the hospital and to sleep in the house to keep me company.
“I’ll be back first thing in the morning,” I promised Lilly on my way out.
“Good bye. Love you,” she replied.
“I love you, too.” I turned back to gave her a hug.
I rolled over in bed, not wanting to get out, hoping all that happened was just a nightmare. But when I staggered to the bathroom, I saw Mrs. Groesbeck sleeping deeply on the couch. Fifteen minutes later, I wrote a note to Mrs. Groesbeck telling her that I was on my way to the hospital. I walked out into the crisp morning air, and shivered as a gush of wind hit me in the face. I got onto the first bus that went to the hospital. It was very crowded, even though it was 6:15 AM.
As soon as I got off the bus, I hurried to the hospital, raced to the elevator, and ran across the hall to Lilly’s room. I knew the operation would start at 7:45 but they’d take Lilly away to get her prepared at least an hour earlier.
“Good morning!” I said to Lilly and my parents. “How was the night?”
“Painful.” Lilly grunted.
“Is everything O.K.?” I asked.
“Dad and I will be back soon,” Mom said and stood up. “We’re just getting some breakfast. Do you want some?”
“No thank you,” I said.
“Sure. I’m starving,” Lilly chimed in.
“I’m sorry Lilly, but you know you can’t eat anything before the operation.”
“All I get here is treated badly,” Lilly complained. “First, I get sick and need to come to this awful place. Then, I get all these shots and people keep poking me.” She indicated the IV’s going into her arm. “And after that, they tell me I’m going to be cut open. And even worse, they decide to starve me! Is there anything good I can get?” Her voice sounded very angry, unlike her normal demeanor.
“I’m sorry. You know it’s all for good.” Mom kissed her.
“The doctors know what they’re doing. You’ll be O.K.,” Dad said. “We’ll be outside for a few minutes.”
Once the door closed behind them, Lilly burst into tears. “It’s not fair,” she sobbed. “I’m suffering so much, and it really hurts. The only time it doesn’t is when they give me pain medication. But since yesterday, to get ready for the operation, they stopped. And also, Mom and Dad don’t care. They keep saying that I’ll get better. But what if I don’t?”
“Don’t say that,” I interrupted.
“And you… you… you recently don’t like me, too. You don’t want to play with me anymore. You don’t want to keep me company. Do you like watching me suffer?”
“No, of course not. I hate it.” I started crying now. “Lilly, listen to me. Listen. We all love you sooooo much. We all want you to get better. You need to believe in yourself to get better. We are all trying to help you build self confidence that you’ll get better. You need to be strong Lilly. Keep fighting. Fight like you fought with me in when I was in first grade and you were three. And we had a war against the babysitter because we hated her. We worked for days planning that war. Remember?”
I watched her strain her face. “Yes.” She answered and her face broke into a smile. “And we jumped on the bed even though we weren’t allowed to. But we wanted to fight from up high because you read in Uncle Dan’s war book that it’s best to be up high.” Lilly was now laughing. I, too, began to smile and laugh. After about a minute she stopped, looked me in my eyes, and said, “I’m sorry about before. It’s just really difficult for me and it must be for you, too.”
I nodded my head. “It is.”
“I want to say sorry to Mom and Dad. I feel bad about what I said before. But how should I?”
“Well you can think about it. In the meantime, do you want to play a game?”
“Sure,” Lilly said. “What should we play?”
“Anything,” I replied. My goal was to get her mind away from all those awful thoughts she was having. A few minutes after we started playing twenty questions, Mom and Dad came back. They just sat there and watched us play. At 6:45 AM, three nurses came in. I recognized one of them as Vikki.
“Hello!” They said cheerfully. “Are you feeling all right?”
“Not really.” Lilly responded.
“Are you?” The nurse asked my Mom.
“I think so.” Mom answered.
“So this is the plan: We’ll give you guys a few minutes to say goodbye to Lilly. Then, we’ll take Lilly to get ready, and you will wait here for about ten minutes. About then, Samantha,” she indicated the nurse standing on her left, “will come and take you to the waiting area. There, you will get regular reports on what’s happening. The operation will take approximately four hours. But it could go on longer. Any questions?” She looked at us. “O.K.. Let’s begin. We’ll wait outside.”
“It’s O.K., Mom.” Lilly said. “I’m sorry about before. I love you.” Mom and Dad both bent down and hugged and kissed her. “I’ll be strong. I know I can.” Lilly announced.
“I’m sure you will.” Dad said. “Good luck. Tell the doctors to do a good job.”
“Oh, I’m sure they will.” I said.
Then Mom said, “Abby, do you want a minute alone with your sister?” I nodded. “Come, let’s go.” She and Dad gave Lilly a few more hugs and kisses, a lot of “I love yous,” “Good lucks,” “Be strongs,” and “See you soons,” then left.
“Lilly, remember, we all always love you and hope you are not suffering. Be strong. I’ll pray for you.”
“Can you use my prayer book?” Lilly asked.
“You mean the one you got from our great Grandma. The one that you love so much?”
“Yes, that one. And make the prayers very special too.” I bent down and gave her a kiss. She started crying. “It’s O.K.. It’s O.K.. You’ll be all right.”
“I want to be strong.” She wiped away a tear, but one came in its place. “I want to be strong for you and Mommy. I don’t want to make Mommy worry.”
There was a soft knock on the door. “Start finishing up,” Vikki said.
“Good bye, Lilly.” A gave her a squeeze. “Don’t forget, we love you, and we always will. Be strong, think of only good thoughts. You can manage. I know you can.”
“Good bye Abby. I love you, and Mommy, and Daddy. Please tell them that.”
“I will.” I promised.
When Vikki came into the room, she told us that Mom and Dad had already left and went to the waiting area. She asked me if I wanted to escort Lilly to the preparation room.
I walked next to the stretcher Lilly was laying on and held her hand. When we got to the double doors, Vikki said: “You can only go until here.”
“Good bye, Lilly. I love you.”
“I love you too. And don’t forget to tell Mommy and Daddy. Good bye. See you later.” We hugged and kissed quickly. Lilly’s eyes were red with fright.
“You’ll be O.K..” I said. I bent down to give her a last kiss, and felt her check all wet from tears.”
“Good bye. Love you.”
And then we parted.
Samantha brought me to my parents in the waiting room. As soon as my mother saw me, she ran to me and held me so hard; I felt like I was about to suffocate. We all waited in silence for about an hour. Then, my father started getting a little squirmy and paced around in front of us.
At 8:30 Vikki came out. Dad stopped walking around, and Mom stood up so suddenly that the prayer book on her lap fell to the floor.
“So far, we think everything is going O.K., but it’s difficult to tell because we’re only at the beginning. I’ll be back in about an hour to give you another report.” As she turned around, she gently stroked my mother’s shoulder.
The second time Vikki came, she didn’t have any new news. She suggested we go walk around in the few shops that were there in order to get our mind off Lilly. The first store we went into just had different gifts to give to patients. Mom got a small, pink heart that said on it “I love you.” The second place sold food and drinks. Mom offered me some food, but I refused.
“Do you want some?” I asked her.
“No, I’m fine.” She answered.
Anyway, I bought her a tuna fish sandwich because I heard her belly grumbling. She was very thankful and gulped it down immediately.
The next piece of information Vikki brought was not happy. She told us that Dr. Goldstein had switched to open surgery instead of laparoscopic, because there were so many tumors. Mom broke down, hardly able to breath through her cries.
When four hours were up, a different nurse came and announced that the operation will take longer, and hopefully will be finished soon.
I sat down and prayed, using Lilly’s book.
The surgery was over two hours longer than expected. Dr. Goldstein told us that the cancer had spread a lot more cancer than he had suspected. In fact, he said, when she was on the operating table, he even put some special chemicals like they use in chemotherapy directly onto her affected organs. He said that she will start regular chemo as soon as she recovers from the operation. He mentioned that she will not be able to walk for a couple of weeks, and told us they will lend us a wheelchair.
Three weeks later I accompanied Lilly, with my parents, to her first chemotherapy session. I pushed Lilly’s wheelchair up the steep ramp to the hospital. Lilly was shaking the whole way there.
I held her hand as they stuck the I.V. into her. She was trembling so hard now, her small hand grasping mine so hard, it felt like me bones might crack. After a few minutes she calmed down and we played Othello, one of her favorite games.
That evening Lilly looked so tired, and weak, she couldn’t even brush her teeth. Over the next few days, she became very worn-out. Her hair started falling out too, and she became too shy to go outside and take walks. We already had a date scheduled to go to the wig store, but it was only in a week and a half and Lilly really wanted to have the wig.
We went to the store and found all different styles of wigs: curly, straight, long, short, brown, black, blond and many more colors. The wig we chose was very similar to Lilly’s real hair. When we walked out of the store, Lilly wearing her new hair proudly, I knew she could make it.
The weeks in which Lilly got her chemotherapy were not pleasant. She would be very weak and tired, and get grouchy very easily.
Often, I’d be with Lilly at night. We’d lie in our beds and whisper back and forth.
“Lilly, are you still awake?” I asked.
“Well, I don’t know. I was just thinking about the report I wrote, and how awful it came out.” I felt like Lilly was the only one who could really understand and listen to me, even though she was four years younger than I was.
“I don’t think it’s awful,” she said.
“You haven’t even read it.”
“All that you write is beautiful. I’m sure this is, too,” she said. I pulled a piece of paper out from my pillow case and read: “The person I admire most, by Abby Fisher. The person I admire most is my little sister, Lilly. The reason I admire her is because she is very strong. I don’t just mean strong like picking up heavy weights, or managing to do fifty pull-ups in a minute. She is a strong fighter. She doesn’t bully people around. She fights what’s inside of her -- the bad part of herself. Her cancer. She’s in a good mood even though she’s suffering. That is why I admire Lilly so much.”
“Oh, wow, that’s really, really wonderful,” Lilly said. “It’s written so nicely, and I really like the person you chose to write about.” Even in the dark, I’m sure I saw a smile flick across her face.
“I think you’ll get an A on that paper.” Lilly told me.
“No, I don’t think so. I also need to read it out to the whole class. Not just hand it in.”
“You’ll do great. You’re an excellent speaker.” She reassured me. “Good night.”
“Good night,” I replied. “Love you.”
I rolled over and thought about the page. I didn’t want to show it to other people. I’d write a new one in the morning about George Washington or Abraham Lincoln, like most kids probably will do.
In the middle of the night she called me.
“I want a snack.” She complained.
“In the middle of the night?”
“Yes. I’m hungry.”
“What do you want to eat?” I asked.
“Toast with peanut butter.”
O.K.” I groaned.
When I came back with the toast she was already fast asleep.
I stayed home from school a lot and helped my Mom and Lilly. Lilly went almost every day to the hospital to get a check up. It was hard to get her to leave the house. She couldn’t get herself out of bed and dressed. We needed to help her. She also didn’t like going out into the public with her wig, even though people thought it was her real hair.
My teacher called my mother and spoke with her for a while. My mother told her all about how my younger sister has cancer and she needs a lot of help. The day the report was due, I didn’t go to school. It was still inside my pillow case.
Dad would leave the house to work very early, after feeding Lilly breakfast and putting her back into bed. He’d come back late, usually when I would be in bed.
Almost a year passed since Lilly got her first dose of chemotherapy. It was probably the hardest year of my Mother’s life. I often woke up at night to the sound of Mom weeping. I’d go to her and give her a hug, and whisper softly in her ear, “Don’t worry, everything will be O.K.. I love you a lot and so does Lilly.” I’d stay with her for a few minutes, until she’d fall back asleep or until Dad came into bed.
Dr. Goldstein called us in for another meeting. He told us that they did a CT scan, and saw that because of all the chemotherapy, some of the cancer had gone away, but there was still a lot left to go. In fact, he said, “I’m sorry to say that we have also spotted some cancerous tumors in her brain.” He said he didn’t think she should continue with the treatment because it wasn’t helping the way he thought it would, and her side affects were very painful. Mom asked him what will happen to Lilly. He replied, “I think she should come to the hospital every day, like she comes now, so we can watch her more closely. She can even sleep here some days.”
“What can we do to help her?” Mom was now crying.
Both Mom and Dad were crying for the rest of the day. Lilly didn’t yet know what the doctor had said. We told her to keep being strong.
Lilly became worse over the next couple of months. She didn’t like being in the hospital and she always needed company.
I hadn’t been going to school very often. Mom would always be with Lilly, and I took care of the house in the morning and went to the hospital in the afternoons. One day, when I beat her at a game of Othello, she threw the board on the floor and screamed at me, “You cheated! You’re a cheater, cheater, cheater.” I couldn’t stand the yelling, and started to walk out. “And now you’re leaving me alone to die!” she shouted after me. She was so bitter, and I didn’t know what to say.
As I got into bed that night, the house empty, like it normally was when I’d go to bed, I felt really angry. “Why does Lilly always get all the attention? Nobody cares about me.” I felt like I needed to yell or scream. I stuck my hand in my pillow case and pulled out the report I once wrote about Lilly. The last line read, “She’s in a good mood even though she’s suffering. That is why I admire Lilly so much.”
“So much for that.” I thought, and then tore the essay into tiny pieces. I stuffed them back into the pillowcase.
Mom cried whenever she wasn’t around Lilly. Dad and I tried to comfort her, but we felt just like her. I cried most often when I was alone. I was lying in bed when Mom came home to shower. She tiptoed into the room, sat on the end of my bed and said, “Abby, the time has come to tell Lilly about her brain cancer. I feel like if I tell her, something more awful will happen.” That night I fell asleep holding Mom’s hand.
The next day I went to visit Lilly. Holding back my tears I said, “Lilly, Dr. Goldstein says that your lung cancer has spread to your brain. You need to be strong, you need to pray, and you need to fight like a really good army.”
She began crying. I did, too. Mom and Dad came in a few minutes later, and together we sat on the hospital bed, all hugging and weeping.
There was no reason for Lilly to be in the hospital; there was nothing they could do for her. We went home. A nurse named Ellie came with us, too. She would help Lilly.
Lilly died a week later. It happened just as Dr. Goldstein had said. She went into a coma. Then, gradually her breathing slowed down, her face grew paler, and then, her last breath came out with a few weak puffs.
The night that it happened, we were all gathered around her bed. Even Dr. Goldstein was with us. He said, “She was a beautiful girl.”
“She is beautiful!” I said.
None of us could hold our tears back. Dr. Goldstein patted Dad’s back. Ellie hugged my Mom and me. Mom pulled away and hugged and kissed Lilly. “I love you,” she whispered in her ear. I did the same, and added, “You are the best sister in the whole entire world. Don’t leave us. We love you so much, please, please be strong Lilly, we are praying for you… I love you….” I clutched Lilly’s pray book next to my heart.
The funeral took place the next day. I didn’t want to go. Going would mean admitting she would really never come back. I stayed close to my mother the whole way there, holding her black sweater. I recognized a lot of people: my teacher, friends from school, our back door neighbors, Lilly’s friends, some of mine, and, of course, our whole family.
My grandfather gave a speech since no one from my immediate family could talk. He stood up, blew his nose on his stained handkerchief and, putting his notes back into his pocket, said, “Lilly, my sweet girl. You liked to write stories. You painted pictures of horses, your favorite animal. You loved to....” He paused. “You loved to.” Grandpa couldn’t finish his sentence. “You loved, Lilly. And we loved you.” He covered his mouth and hurried from the front of the room.
So many people kept coming in and out of the house. They pat me on the back and gave me hugs. All I could think about was Lilly. I felt bad that I got her angry. But now, she couldn’t forgive me. All she could do was look down from Heaven and watch me living while she lay dead in the windy cemetery, tucked away under the heavy dirt. The next few nights I went to bed holding Lilly’s prayer book, my parents sitting next to me. I woke up at night so many times; Mom would come, wipe the tears from my eyes, and sing me back to sleep.
I knew I needed to get back to my normal life. I sat on my bed and thought about the time when my mother told me about the cancer. I poked my hand around my pillow looking for a tissue. When I reached into my pillow case, I felt a few crumpled pieces of paper. I took them out. In the little light that flowed through the window, I made out my handwriting of my report, “The person I admire most.” After about five minutes of trying to put the puzzle back together, I worked it out.
I took Lilly’s prayer book, and with a little bit of glue, I pasted my report to the front of her book. After admiring my work, I notice a wrinkled piece of paper fall out. Picking it up, I recognized Lilly’s script.
When you read this, I probably won’t be around. I want you to know that I’m really sorry for all the not nice things I did to you and Mom and Dad (Please tell them.) I forgive you too.” My eye’s swelled with tears. “I don’t know if you remember, but a long time ago you wrote a report about the person you admire most. You wrote about me. I was so inspired by your essay, I wrote one too. Here it is: “The person I admire most by Lilly Fisher. The person I admire most is my older sister, Abby. I admire her most because she is really strong. Even though everyone thinks I’m really strong, nobody is thinking about how much she’s suffering, too. I’m sure she felt very angry and sad at many points during the past year, because I also used to feel very jealous when she got all the attention. (I’m sorry for that.) That is why I admire Abby so much.” Abby, I love you so much and I hope you love me, too. I never knew whether you said that with your whole heart, because I was an annoying little sister. I hope you miss me, because I sure miss you. I want you to know that even though no one told me how it was all going to end, I guessed. If you are reading this, my guess is probably correct. All day and night my biggest fear was what would happen when I’m gone. How would you, Dad and Mom manage? But I had faith that you’d be strong just like I tried to be.
Hopefully I’m not boring you with this letter because I really want to say I’m sorry for all that I did, or said, or made you do for me. Now, I won’t ever be able to help you again, and pay you back for all that you did for me. Thank you. Instead, I want you to keep my book with you as much as you can (but don’t let it get in your way like I sometimes did.) I want you to remember that even though I’m gone, and I won’t be able to come back, you should continue your life. You shouldn’t spend too much time worrying about me, because now I’m hopefully in a good place, and you should continue your life in happiness. You probably remember that I really like school and that last year when we needed to do the book report about someone famous, I chose Helen Keller. I learned a lot about her. My favorite thing that she said was, “When one door of happiness closes, another opens, but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one that has been opened for us.” Abby, I know you so well. You are my best friend and sister. Please don’t look too long at the door that closed behind me. Try to find the new one that opened, and will lead you into a new happy life.
I love you so so so so so so so so so much.