As I walked alongside my husband down a lone dim corridor, I heard no other sounds other than the rapid pulse of my heart beat. The closer we got to the intensive care unit, the more my heart raced. I placed my trembling hand inside my husband's palm and squeezed tightly. I needed his strength to keep walking forward. My body was moving, but I was unaware of it. I was only following through the motions. My mind kept taking me back to those minutes before it happened…
My morning began as most other days. I awoke a little before seven, made a pot of coffee, woke my husband, cooked breakfast and saw him off to work by eight-thirty. After doing the laundry, vacuuming and a few other chores the morning was nearly gone. My four year old son was awake by ten. I gave him a bath and fixed him a bowl of Cheerios with bananas. He was content in front of the TV watching cartoons as I started in on the bills and emailing. Soon it was nearly noon and time to do the morning dishes and think about what to prepare for lunch.
My son, now tiring of watching TV was busy being a little nuisance. I was oblivious to what I was doing. I mindlessly washed the dishes and was deeply worried about the overdue bills, making the car note and trying to figure out how to make eighty dollars enough for this week's groceries when my son began tugging at the back of my baggy T-shirt asking if he could play in the front yard. I didn't even turn around. He was irritating me at that moment with his repetitious "Can I go outside?" routine. I wasn't thinking when I blurted out, "Yes, go ahead."
Our front yard is gated, and I thought he would be safe for a few minutes while I finished the dishes. I longed for a little time to myself. I watched him as he bolted out the front door with Spiderman costume on. He was out to save the world! I smiled and continued washing the dishes. I wish I had grabbed him in my arms and said, "No you can't go outside, wait a few minutes." That is what I wish I had said…
"Here we are, honey. Are you ready?" My husband whispered as we stood outside our son's room.
"My dear God" I mumbled. I did not want to go any further. I wasn't ready for it to be final.
My heart pounded as my mind went blank. I felt numb down to the essence of my soul. I followed behind my husband still grasping his hand and using his strength to keep moving forward. The closer we came to our son's bed the more terrified and guilty I felt. The constant beeping of the heart monitor throbbed in my ears as a heavy metallic medicinal smell filled my nostrils. I became sick to my stomach and felt faint, but I held on to see my son possibly for the last time.
Looking down, I hardly recognized him. He was so small and still. Numerous lacerations and bruises covered his sweet face and his frail body had been broken in various places. A respirator was the only thing keeping him alive. His eyes were half open and listless. I leaned over, kissed my son's cheek and brushed his hair with the back of my unsteady hand. I whispered that I loved him and told him mommy was very sorry. My husband was weeping as he kissed my son's forehead and told him to hang on for mommy and daddy. Our son is half my husband's world, and I am the other. He is his little man. They do everything together baseball games, washing the car, playing catch, planting the garden and just hanging out as father and son. My husband would be lost without his son, and so would I.
Earlier we were told by his doctors that they were not very optimistic and that we should be prepared for the worst. Reluctantly, they informed us that they were not very hopeful of our son ever gaining consciousness. We were left with the horrible burden of deciding our son's fate. This was a decision I was not ready to bring myself to make. And I would not be able to do so until I was absolutely sure nothing else could be done for our son and that the slimmest edge of hope I was desperately clinging to was exhausted.
A nurse came in the room. I barely noticed her until she told handed us some forms to look over. I stared blankly at the stark white sheets of paper which would give the doctors permission to give up on my son's life. As the nurse continued speaking with my husband and I, my mind kept drifting back to this morning to those few minutes before my life erupted...
I was standing at my sink washing dishes and humming one of those monotonous radio tunes that everyone hates but knows the melody of when I heard the halting screeching of brakes, the crashing of metal and the soul-wrenching screams coming from my son. The glass I was rinsing fell from my trembling hands and shattered in the sink. I rushed out the back door, down the driveway, across the front lawn and saw my son laying on the ground bloodied and writhing from excruciating pain.
I remember an elderly man who was still sitting behind the wheel of his car was near hysterics as he tried to explain how he had taken a wrong turn and was turning his car around when he lost control and crashed through our gate and accidentally backed over my son. My mind was spinning as I grew more terrified that my son was going to die. My neighbors were gathering and expressing their sympathies and one of them told me they had called 9-1-1. I couldn't respond to anyone. I was in a quiet desperate panic as I cradled my son up in my arms. I sensed life escaping his tiny body as his hand went limp inside mine. All I could hear was the approaching sirens blaring, as I begged him to hold on…
"Are you okay sweetheart? " My husband asked me.
"What?" I said quietly. My husband's voice had startled me.
"You seem so far away. Are you doing okay?"
"Honestly, I don't know how I feel. I am going to take a quick walk to pull myself together." I said.
"That's a good idea. I'll be right here when you get back." He whispered.
"I won't be long, I promise." I kissed him and walked out the door.
Within a few minutes, I found myself standing in front of the hospital Chapel. I hesitated before walking in. I was so upset, so internally lost and afraid of losing my baby son. The guilt for not watching over him was mounting. All I had left was my faith and my belief in a higher power.
I lit a candle and sat quietly in a front row pew. Tears began to stream down my distraught face. I closed my eyes and felt an overwhelming presence embracing and uplifting my soul as I prayed from the depth of my being to be given a chance to take back those precious minutes when my son asked if he could go outside. I made a profound promise. If I was allowed this nearly impossible wish, I would always watch over my son and protect him for all his growing years.
After making some peace within and with a resolve in my heart to accept my son's fate, I made my way back to my family. My husband's head was down, and he was holding our son's hand. I walked over slowly to the bed. My husband looked up at me. He was crying, but these were a different kind of tears, and I sensed a beautiful glimmer of hope in is eyes as he motioned for me to look down at our son.
I was astounded by what I witnessed…our son's gorgeous brown eyes though weak, were open, and he was smiling faintly up at me.
©2004 Lisa Arnold
Authors's note: This story is currently under consideration by Kenyon Review
Authors's note: Picture used:©FreeFoto.com Supplied by FreeFoto.com