When words won't convey a message….

…what do you do?

A friend of mine is dying. She has, the doctors say, five months, which in layman terms means we probably won’t see her through Christmas. And she has a daughter the same age as my own youngest daughter. A child who will be left as an orphan, since her own father committed suicide when she was much younger.

The term orphan brings up images of Oliver Twist, or Annie, but life is rarely a musical and Daddy Warbucks only exists in the cartoons. Of course there are family and friends that will take her in. But she will always be missing something, a part of her that should never be taken. A mother.

I wonder strange things tonight after hearing this news. I mean, we knew it was coming, but still… this is pretty final. The tumors have doubled. No more chemo. Quality over quantity.

What, I thought, would happen to her cell phone number? I texted her tonight just to say, “hey, we love you,” and then I thought, when she is gone, where will that text go? Some other random person in this state will be assigned that number, and that “hey, we love you,” will mean absolutely nothing to them. They might even think they have a stalker. They won’t understand that this modern-technology, cell phones and texting, has connected me with someone else in a way nothing else could. We live miles apart, but I knew in seconds how she was feeling.

Of course, I knew before, because I have often wondered how my own children would feel should they lose their mother. It’s one reason I don’t understand suicide. How do you DO that to your family and children? How do you leave them wondering if they could have done something, or if it was their fault?

Cancer is a final and thorough demon. It usually finishes what it starts. We hear success stories now and then. More often, we read obituaries.

I suppose, in a way, I can understand why so many around me cling to their Mormon faith, because it offers answers for the questions. Answers for “what happens after?” Perhaps I am too much of a cynic, because I don’t believe that wearing special underwear, or paying your money to a church, or faithfully attending a service is going to make you SAFE and keep you away from that UNKNOWN.

Your money would be better spent for research to find a cure, or put out to comfort children and families who are dealing with the demon monster, the big C.

When my oldest daughter was six, she became very ill and I took her to her primary care physician. I’ve always trusted this doctor, so when she said to me, “I don’t know, Natalie, I don’t feel good about this, and I think you should take her to the hospital,” I did.

I took her to Primary Children’s Medical Center, where another doctor confirmed she had meningitis. The problem was, they did not know if it was the deadly bacterial meningitis or the viral kind, which is miserable but most survive. They did a spinal tap. It was inconclusive. They hospitalized her overnight, on antibiotics, and I spent the night on a hard, lonely, cot/bed, listening to the poor girl in the next room throw up and cry all night long. I asked the nurse, and she said one word. “Chemo.”

My daughter recovered, fortunate to have the viral and not bacterial meningitis, but about three weeks later I saw the obituary of the 12-year-old girl in the room next to us.

Did her parents wonder what they did wrong, what they could have done differently, to save her?

Did they wonder why this God so many pray to is so brutal and unforgiving, saving some, and passing others over without a glance?

I’m not an atheist. At best I am agnostic. I am well aware I don’t have all the answers, and will undoubtedly keep asking the questions for as long as I am able.

But I wonder…. When I text my friend’s number in a few months or so, who will answer? Will it be her? Or will my message be received with confusion and fear? With anger? They won’t know the story. They won’t care.

But I do. I always will.


About Natalie R. Collins

Natalie has more than 30 years writing, editing, proofreading and design experience. She has written 20 books (and counting), has worked for the Sundance Film Festival, and as an investigative journalist, editor, and proofreader. She embraces her gypsy-heart and is following her new free-thinking journey through life. Follow her as she starts over and learns a bunch of life's lessons--some the hard way.
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5 Responses to When words won't convey a message….

  1. Kent Winward says:

    We humans strive for immortality, even though we know it is an impossibility. Religion is one way. Writing is another. Yet another appears to be technology. Nothing is more eerie than seeing the constant updates on a dead friend’s FaceBook page. The technology, the writing, the religion — they are all just versions of story telling, the most time honored tradition for keeping the memory of the lost alive.

    On a fundamental level, we all know that we live on, only as long as we are remembered.


  2. Birdman says:

    I wish I were there to comfort you!


  3. Cele says:

    How heartbreaking. My wishes and hopes to your friend, to you and to all who are left behind hurting.


  4. Jen says:

    When my son had just turned 1, I was hospitalized with meningitis. We didn’t know for over 24 hours which kind I had – I, too, had the less dangerous kind. But that overnight in the hospital alone, not knowing if I might have a potentially deadly disease was very traumatizing. Every time I hear the word meningitis, part of me relives that night (I’m sure the same is for you.)

    Please tell me the child of your friend has grandparents still living? Who is going to take her in?


  5. Your blog opened memories of my late brother, who spent most of his time online. We didn’t agree about much of anything but had lots of fun communicating by way of the internet. He passed suddenly and I was left with one less soul on the other end of the line. I’d sent half a dozen unanswered messages to him before I realized he was really gone and couldn’t answer any more. Talk about finality!
    On another topic, I was happy to see your post today. You were the reason I signed onto TWL. I’d read your early books and loved them, but hadn’t heard a word recently and wondered what you were up to (as an author, of course). I’ve also given up trying the traditional publishing route, and glad I did. I have several books e-pubbed now and one POD, and have five more contracts with good e-publishing houses. I may not make a mint doing it this way, but I will be read and, just maybe, remembered when I too will no longer be around to answer emails.

    Best wishes,

    Dale Thompson, writing as Pat Dale


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