She went quietly


One. Two. Three. Four. Five.

Five girls.

Now five butterflies. They once had the loudest of footprints.

This blog is not to make you weep. It’s not to make you sob. It’s not to ask you to question your beliefs.

All I ask is you listen to this song as you read.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=etq8ocl0JJo

I ask that you remember five beautiful girls you never met.

And I ask that

Tonight, before you go to sleep, listen.

Listen to how alive they are.

Don’t let them be a quiet memory.

They are much too beautiful for that

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As a child, I never hugged. It became a running joke amongst family gatherings. If you could get a cuddle from Jess, you were worthy of a golden handshake. I was not an abused child, nor neglected. I had never felt the sick hands of a man, nor a near miss. My childhood was filled with kisses and hugs, piggy backs and tumbling on the trampoline.

But they didn’t understand.

From the age of four, I knew baby brother was dying. I saw the breathing monitors. I would tell Mummy when he stopped breathing. Daddy became very good at resuscitating. If we were driving, Mummy would tell me to shake his chest until we could pull over.

He lived. God knows how. Truly; he knows. The doctors certainly don’t.

But from four years of age, I understood that baby brothers die. And if baby brothers can die, maybe Mummy’s and Daddy’s can too. And everyone else.

So I stopped hugging. And that way, when his machines didn’t work anymore, and I couldn’t shake his swollen broken chest hard enough, and the CPR stopped working, I wouldn’t be close. I had distanced myself long ago.

And it wouldn’t hurt quite the same.

But things change. Baby brother survived. His lungs healed. They remain misshaped, crackled and awkward. But they breathe so beautifully.

A year and half ago, I began to hug again. I clutched and snuggled, and each and every night I screamed my love to the world and beyond. I whispered to friends in nightclubs, and typed across glowing laptops. I nuzzled into Daddy, and stroked brothers hair.

Because I learnt something else.

Girls die too.

And they go so quietly.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………

When a girl dies, they do not scream, and they do not sob. They do not ask, and they do not plead. They are not ugly, and they are not desperate.

Yet, nor do they fade, a smile upon their lips. They are not swans, despite it all. Their feathers fell out from the Chemotherapy and oxygen tanks.

I guess what I am trying to say is that girls die quietly.

It’s only afterwards that we scream.

This isn’t to make you sob, my intention was never to clutch at your throat. It’s not to make you donate to a charity, nor make a Facebook status. I am not asking for prayers and salvations, you needn’t cross your chest.

You just need to know that when they died, they were beautiful.

She was first. We met but the briefest of moments. You had never seen such tortured, pretty eyes. We both pretended that there wasn’t a feeding tube snaked into her soft nose. We both pretended that this aching piece of plastic was not the single thing keeping her twelve year old heart beating. We giggled, chatted shyly. Together we walked through the gardens of the hospital, whispered conspiratally  about the hypothesised antics of our doctors after hours. She was always a few steps behind my lanky frame, content to rest in my shadow on just another afternoon in the hospital.

I waved goodbye, and she lifted her chin, ever so slightly. There was a grin. I prayed I wouldn’t see her again. She was too young to be here.

Maybe I should never have prayed at all.

She was so quiet in her last days. No-one knew. No-one knew they were her last. Fifteen years old, eyes red, hair thick, she padded her little feet along the road. We try not to think about how many kilometres it was. Any distance is too long to know what was coming next.

She stood against the rails. Still quiet. Still ready.

And she stepped.

And she went quietly; she never made a sound.

She had been screaming for years. Late at night, I close my eyes and I wonder. I wonder if anyone could have ever done anything with those desperate screams of hers. The truth is, it doesn’t matter now. She is quiet now. The screaming in her heart has stopped.

I smile knowing how quiet heaven must be. I wonder if she hears the sobs of her loved ones still here. I wonder if she tells them why. And I wonder if it would make any difference.

The first time we met, I knew she was dying. Her eyes told me so. When our mummies had gone to bed, and the risk of peeks at the computer screen were rested, we would tell the truth. Was it goodbye? Was it see you later? It’s the only argument we ever had. Just so you know; I won. In the end she agreed with me; it wasn’t goodbye. Simply because I said so. We had only just met. It was too soon for words like that.

Mummy used to ask me what we were chatting about. Just stuff, I smiled. She smiled the same to hers. The truth is, we had it all planned. Our wings and our dresses. Our caskets and the songs as our bodies floated above timber, our final sail. We weren’t liars; we just didn’t want to hurt anyone.

As it progressed, I heard her scream. Desperately she held onto me. I kept telling her frightened little eyes. It’s going to be ok, the ambulance will be here soon, and they will make the pain stop. It will be ok soon.

And the entire time I knew I was lying. She knew too. But she let me lie. Later, she thanked me for it. I want to apologise to her. We always spoke the truth. My throat screams apologies at the sky. I pray for forgiveness. I pray she still understands why I had to say what I did.

But the screaming stopped soon after. She was quiet. And I knew.

There was the sleeping. More and more. Her lashes were heavy. Her eyes didn’t dance anymore. They rested now, more and more each day. Each time, before her body gave in, a little smile would rest upon her lips. She had a secret; it would be her last.

When her Mummy called, Daddy grabbed me. I could no longer stand.

Later I would learn.

Later I would learn that she giggled. A final joke.

She went quietly. She didn’t make a sound.

And everyday I listen for her.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Her, I never loved. For, we never met. Instead, I love her through my friends. I have seen the photos. The curved lips. Her eyes screamed of heavens skies. You always knew she wasn’t meant to be here. Not when she was quite so beautiful.

 I hold my friends and listen to their sobs. I hear the stories. I hear her sweetness, her tenacity. I feel her strength, and know she fought harder than the universe should have ever allowed.

From the moment babe left mothers warmth, the curve of her chest began to fight. And so she did, for seventeen years.

And then, her chest slowed. She gave her cuddles.

And beneath the hospitals skies, she went quietly.

And she didn’t make a sound.

I tell them she can breathe now. I know that they will never breathe the same again, not since hers stopped. I know I cannot take their pain, for no one can take mine. So intead, I remember her and indulge her memory in possibilities. Her spirit is too loud to be so quiet.

Someone needs to scream her name. Someone needs to meet her today and remember all that could have been.

I cannot forget, just because I did not meet. That was never a valid excuse.

Besides; She is much too pretty for that.

……………………………………………………………………………………

A week we were together. I was at the end of my admission. It had been the greatest fight yet. Immediately I envied her smile, so self assured and genuine. She was gorgeous in the sense that only a girl who wears a smile can be. We were both too young and awkward to befriend in such a short space of time. Her admission was beginning; I was about to released from captivity.

Still, for seven days we smiled shyly and I listened to her belly laugh. She heard my incessant gabbling, and together we formed an understanding. Our fights are too far away, so instead let us smile and love and send light your way. And every now and then, may your mind wander back to me. Wonder how I am going.

After two months, I was finally going home. As I collected my cases of things, I spied her returning to the room. This time, we were brave. I wished her luck, all the best. Her warm grin returned the favour.

I left with the peace that a tidy ribboned end brings. I smiled, knowing we had fulfilled all our possibilities.

They said they weren’t expecting it. She had been doing ok. It was just a regular admission.

But then her breathing stopped.

And she went quietly.

And she didn’t make a sound.

And I can’t help but wonder how laughter so rich can be so quiet. If I really try, I can still hear her.

And if you try, you can too. Don’t let her go quietly. Keep her here, just a little longer. Even just for a day. Just hear how loud she laughs.

…………………………………………………………………………………………..

She only just left. One month. She was just like me; fighting and laughing her way through it. How my friends hearts ached when she smiled. For, they were all the same. They weren’t ok, but they were. No-one was designing their wings. Everyone was just bubbling as they focused on keeping their footprints.

She was shopping. They said her heart was tired.

She stood. And she fell.

She went quietly. And she didn’t make a sound.

And now I only hear my friends cry. Because they can’t hear her chatter.

And I don’t know how to fill the silence. So instead I hold them as they sob.

………………………………………………………………………………..

Tonight, before you make love to your husband or argue with your brother about the dishes. Before you brush the dog or nibble satay from the frying pan. Before you live and lose and laugh and love.

Tonight, just close your eyes for a moment.

See them, all five.

Know that they went quietly.

Know that they didn’t make a sound.

And now take a breath. Seal your lashes tight. And hear how alive they are.

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