I Welcomed You Into This World, And I Will Escort You Out

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 6.03% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

Six years ago, I stood in the Meyers’ house, holding tight to a secret.  We had been asked – no questions, please – to pick Carolyn up from school, and put Carolyn to bed, and wait for the Meyers to arrive.
Carolyn sat obediently in the back seat as we drove her home, bubbling with unasked questions.  Carolyn talks, pretty much all the time, but this time she didn’t.  She knew how adoptions work: they can fall apart at literally the last minute, if the mother changes her mind.  But as she went to bed, her excitement finally squirted out because she knew it was a sister, and we knew it was a sister, and nobody wanted to speak lest we break the spell.
We tried not to smile.  Because, yes, this was New Sister alert – the sister Carolyn had wanted for years.  But adoptions are hard, and harder still when you’ve already adopted one child, and full of disappointments.  More than once Eric and Kat had driven down and returned with nothing but tears.
Carolyn drifted off.  We sat in the living room, feet kicking, hoping for the new arrival.  Waiting.
And we heard the car pull into the driveway.
And we ran to the back door.
And we saw them lifting her triumphantly out of the back seat, so swaddled in fabric and car seat plastic that we didn’t even know her sex or the color of her skin was, but we raced to her, raced because we were so happy to see her, raced past a beaming Eric and Kat to welcome this new arrival:
Rebecca Alison Meyer.


“You were the first to see her in,” Kat said, still in shock from the diagnosis.  “Do you… do you want to be with her when she goes?”
Yes.
Yes, Rebecca.
I welcomed you into this world, and I will escort you out.
But oh, I was not ready to.


I have never been by anyone’s side while they passed on.  And I… I wasn’t sure if I could do this.  It is a terrifying idea, to watch someone you love die.  Would she go painfully, thrashing and seizing, like my stepfather Bruce?  Would she go slowly, taking weeks?  I had a job to do, eight hours a day of programming I owed them, a novel to write, how could I do that around her?
And… could I bear this?
I didn’t know if I had the strength.  I was afraid, a terrible fear, and maybe I’d committed to something I shouldn’t, but….
Then I thought of Rebecca.  Beautiful, stubborn, pain-in-the-ass Rebecca, and all those fears were incinerated.  I was her – well, I didn’t start as her godfather, it was a term sort of spot-welded to us because all the other terms didn’t convey to others how precious the Meyer children were to us.  I was a sort of erzatz-grandparent, forever taking joy in the Meyer kids, watching them grow, having them for overnights.  They were ours, and Rebecca was ours, and when I thought of her making that transition without Uncle Ferrett there I trembled with every kind of rage and injustice.
I would not leave her bedside.
I welcomed you here.
I will see you out.


I left her bedside, of course.  For short times.  You can’t wait vigil without practical elements: going to the bathroom, comforting visitors, fuelling up with caffeine and sugar because you’re running on two hours of sleep and you’re going to stay until it ends.
In the end, it was both short and long.  Thirteen hours I waited.  Most of that was parked in the couch across from her bed, watching, because Eric and Kat were the ones to hold her, making sure she was never alone.  But I too cuddled her; the Meyers were generous enough to meter out Rebecca’s last hours on Earth.  And I will not share those bedside details, though at least one thing happened in that time that rocked me to my core and made me question everything I knew about the universe.  One thing I am still processing.
But what happened in that room is not my story to tell.
Yet you know the ending: after hours of fighting, Rebecca finally passed on.  And she was not alone.  I’d say she was surrounded by everyone who loved her when she went, but that would have been impossible; we would have needed a stadium for that.  And her favorite Uncle Jim was, in a weekend of purest agony, attending his grandmother’s funeral in Chicago as his um-daughter died.  But Rebecca?  Was surrounded by the Greatest Hits package of love from a deep, deep catalog.
She was not alone.
But then again, a girl that special never had been.


And in the end, we watched the people come and bring her body out on a stretcher, and put it into the van, and they drove away.  I ran out into the center of the road to watch as the lights of the van went to the end of a long street, paused by the traffic light, and disappeared from view.  I had been the first face she saw coming out of that house; I would be the last.
Oh, Rebecca.  There were so many things I couldn’t do for you.  I couldn’t save you.  But this small thing was what I could do.  I stayed with you.  I guided you as best I could.
And though it was perhaps foolish to think that maybe you wanted me there, when you were surrounded by seas of people, I had made a vow.  The best kind of vow: one so big you’re not sure whether you can keep it.  I’d vowed that when that time came, Uncle Ferrett would be there.
And that was one final gift you gave me, little Rebecca: I had done things I was scared of before, maybe all of them, because though I walk bold inside I am a timid man.  But I had never understood the power of duty.  I knew that soldiers did leap out of trenches to face gunfire, I knew that duty gave them that strength to surpass mere human fears, but I had never experienced it.  But when I thought of you, Rebecca, when I imagined your life without that closure, that bookending, of me there and me there, I would not have faltered.  Had you taken months, I would have stayed.  Whatever you needed, no excuses, I would provide until my body broke and fell apart.
I saw you come.
I watched you go.
I hope it helped you.
I know it helped me.


 
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5 Comments

  1. Eric
    Jun 9, 2014

    I saw your tweets but hadn’t really understood what you went through until now. I can’t imagine being in a similar situation and remain as composed as it seems you were. My biggest sympathies go out to you and the Meyers, cause even tho I didn’t meet her or knew anything about her until now, I shared a tiny fragment of your pain through your writing. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Lyn Belzer-Tonnessen
    Jun 9, 2014

    Beautiful words. Beautiful girl.

  3. Heather Robinson-Mooney
    Jun 10, 2014

    I am so sorry for your loss. My daughter, Aliyah, died on January 4, 2013 from Type 1 diabetes. I thought and felt many of these same things. It’s a hole that will never be filled. Thank you for sharing this–it has helped me to grieve and remember my daughter. <3

  4. Bellana NicMorgan
    Jun 10, 2014

    Hugs. Love you.

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