Cherry Limeade... Please

June 7, 2011
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For me, it took twenty-two steps to get from the car garage to the revolving doors. Twenty-two steps to reach the smell of depression and two more to hear the sound of death.

Stressed smiles reappeared from person to person. Eyes wondering, heart thumbing, I starred into the face of sorrow. Every room held a different story. Quiet mumbles and fear swarmed through the air.

Three more steps and we opened the door. Greeted by a smile . . . and tired eyes filled with hope. The story was different in this room. The story was life not death.

I never thought she would die.

The girls weren’t with us. They were back home with their grandpa.

Immediately, warm laughs and distant memories filled the room. I took a seat in a cushioned recliner and starred into the unknown. My lanky brother squeezed into the seat leaving no space for comfort and three empty chairs sitting against the opposite wall.

We sat idle. Experienced words of life exchanged between the two women. They talked for long hours, sharing words of encouragement, whispering fears that lurked places elsewhere.

Nurses came in and left out. I watched the heart monitor carefully trying to learn the science of undulant waves, trying to reassure myself that nothing would go wrong while the nurses weren’t in the room. Scribbled lines appeared on the screen. Waves rose and crashed. The changes in the waves were obvious. Monstrous lines. She would laugh, hard. The seconds following left the screen with a smooth, thin line… and a hushed, labored breathing.

Bubbly. She’d laugh and joke, talking for what seemed like hours. As she caught her breath, she’d turn to her table and pass us something: cookies and a drink. White macadamia nut and white milk for me. Chocolate chip and root beer for my brother. I’d sit back and smile. And she’d returned with her labored speech.

She’d tire. Quietly ask my ma to comb and plat her satin brown hair.

We never left without exchanging hugs. First ma, then my brother, and then me. Bear hugs. I’d bend over and feel her warm breath follow the curves of my cheek. That last time, she whispered something. I stood a few seconds longer to locate the quieted words she’d spoken.

“Pray for me, Ash. Pray for me hard. I want to be better.”

That was the last time I saw her. In an ICU bed. Hushed.

A few months later, I was sitting in a Virginia Sonic’s drive thru. The sun pierced thru the window warming my right side. The smell of fresh finger nail polish overtook the smell of fried food. I ordered a Sonic’s burger, an order of tots, and a cherry-limeade. After about thirty-minutes, we received the food, pulled out, and the phone rang. It was Ma.

Summer’s air brushed across my face. I sipped my drink cooling the sting in my throat. The taste was both sweet and sour. Tears rushed down my cheeks.

Had I not prayed long enough, hard enough? Her high-pitched voice continuously replayed through my mind. She was joy and hope. I learned to share unspoken love through hugs. She taught me to dream to the ends of the earth and to hope what seemed impossible in the world.

You've gotta have hope. Without hope life is meaningless. Without hope life is meaning less and less.

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