She Would Have Been Ten Today.

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 8.442% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

I wrote this four years ago:

You realize that a child is not a child, but an arc soaring out into time and space, a potential to be fulfilled, and somewhere within her skull is an eyeball-sized mass that may grow to squeeze her brain until it literally forgets how to breathe. Except this child is a child. This child may only ever be a child, and then dissolve into a tangle of theories. What would she have liked? What would she have seen?

You look down at this beautiful wide-eyed girl, grinning like she has all the secrets in the world to tell you, and you can’t hold it all in your head. She’s alive here, and over here she may not be. You swing your flashlight between those two possibilities, trying to capture them both, but the beam is too narrow. Alive. Dead. Alive. Dead.

You hold her so hard, pressing her skin to yours, hoping to press her memory into your flesh forever.

But you can’t.

You know you can’t.


I couldn’t.


It’s her birthday, and I can no longer plot the trajectory of where my goddaughter Rebecca would have been by now. The Christmas after, I was still pretty sure she would have liked the Annie movie, which starred a plucky girl who looked a lot like her – or she would have hated it because I wanted her to like it. She was like that.

But now? She would have been ten.

I only got to know her until her sixth birthday, when she left us.

There’s a thousand things I wanted to know about Rebecca that I never got to see. I don’t know what songs she’d be singing now. I don’t know how she’d be getting along with her brother Josh. I don’t know what plays she’d have been acting in.

And all those extend out into all the other unknowns I hoped to see: who she’d have crushes on. What career she’d choose. What sort of grown-up she’d be. Whether we’d stay in touch as she forged her own life.

I saw all there was to see.  The whole damn show.

I wanted more.


My faith tells me that she’s been wrapped up in the arms of a loving universe, some essential part of her preserved and treasured the way I would have preserved and treasured her. I remember praying, begging God to take my life for hers, then slowly realizing that there was no bargain to be struck.

As an honest man, I must confess that there are days my faith wavers and I wonder if it’s all bullshit. It might be. But it keeps me going a lot of days when I’d collapse otherwise, so if I don’t force it on anyone, well, I’ve always been a big fan of whatever works.

But there’s that residual bitterness. We tried everything we legitimately could think of on Rebecca, every advanced medical treatment we could get our hands on in the time that we could – and everything the world had to offer wasn’t enough.

She would have been ten.

She got to be six.

I get to stand by a grave sometimes and look at this tiny piece of rock, embedded with a thousand other rocks at the Jewish cemetery, and feel the sweep of time passing, of humanity’s importance diminishing, of all the billions gone and forgotten and knowing that Rebecca’s done all she could do as her own entity.

I miss her.

I hope that means something.

But as an honest man, I must confess that some days I wonder if that’s bullshit too.


There was a firefly last night. I saw it once, cradled in the branches of the tree in my front yard. Rebecca’s father was working in my woodshop, as was her favorite uncle, and I was hauling out some trash.

I looked around. I didn’t see it again.

The fireflies came early for Rebecca, swirling in the yard as the doctors hauled her body out to the van. I remember seeing them, feeling they were tiny green angels come to see her off, glowing and sparking before any firefly had a right to be out.

Sometimes when I think of Rebecca fireflies appear, and I wonder if that’s her way of comforting me. And I admit it’s probably bullshit. I endured a great loss.  Little lies about fireflies may be how I survive.

I just wish Rebecca had survived.


  1. Anonymous Alex
    Jun 7, 2018

    I never met Rebecca, except through your writing, but I was thinking about her just the other day when I was watching “Chopped.” Alex Guarnaschelli was playing for a charity named after another child who’d died from cancer, and I thought about how many children must die that way and about how Rebecca had a color named after her and about how quickly we’d run out of colors if we did that for every such child. That made me profoundly sad.


    • TheFerrett
      Jun 8, 2018

      Yeah. I’m glad she’s embedded in the Internet, but I’d prefer to have an actual child.

      I’d prefer to have all the children alive.

      • Anonymous Alex
        Jun 8, 2018

        I’ve said this before, and I don’t mind sticking my neck out saying so: I’m anti-cancer.


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