This isn’t a fictional story as it is based on an actual event.
Nervousness overcame me. At this time of night the hospice was quiet. Day after day, I sat beside my daughter’s bed watching over her. On the twenty-seventh night at two-thirty in the morning, Lisa’s eyes opened. Tears trickled down her pale cheeks. In silence, I took her hand in mine. How is this possible, I asked myself? The senior doctor had, after all, confirmed shortly after admission to the hospice that my daughter wasn’t aware. When her eyes closed, I accepted that the end was near. During the night, a storm pounded the town; an unusual occurrence at this time of year. The hours passed slowly; her breathing changed; finally, just faint puffs, barely discernible. Then nothing: just silence!
I kissed my daughter goodbye and reluctantly approached the doctor’s station. “Mi hija está muerta,” I whispered.
Staff appeared, the corridor was a hive of activity.
“You do realise,” a young doctor said as he glanced at me, “that she’s dead, don’t you?”
‘Cruel bastard,’ I thought ‘and lacking in empathy.’ Staff ushered me out of the room, but I resisted, turning back. “Por supuesto que entiendo que Eliza está muerta. Estaba con mi hija cuando respiró por última vez.”
Alone in the waiting room, I recalled my thoughts. Despite living in Spain for many years, I failed to grasp the intricacies of the language. To be blunt, I have problems with my own language. Parts of speech leave me cold; passive voice confuses me; and spelling isn’t one of my strong points. I studied every day, but by the following morning, the hard-earned knowledge was nowhere to be found. Gone, abandoning my mind as have many memories.
“Time passes quickly,” I thought, as I sat beside the coffin. Memories flooded into my mind, of the good times, and bad.
An old friend’s words, spoken as he left the hospital, echoed around the room. “If you really want to tell your daughter’s story, put pen to paper and write about her life.”
Twenty-three days. That was the time Eliza spent in hospital. Briefly, a sad smile played on my lips as I listened to friends and colleagues talking about her kind nature, and the love she felt for family and friends. People were drawn to her. She wasn’t perfect, but in my father’s words, “As near as damn it.”
In my humble opinion she was a wonderful person that I looked up to and admired for her kindness, intelligence and wit. I could go on forever, but you get the picture. I recalled the last words spoken before the ambulance ferried her to the hospital. “Mom, promise me that you’ll publish your books.”
The promise was made, but fate intervened, as it inevitably does. Although it will take time, I will keep the promises made. On the flight to England, even though I loved Spain, the decision was taken not to return. Life without my daughter isn’t easy. I grieve, and no doubt will do so for the remainder of my life, but I try to cope with life and the problems thrown at me.
“Time to get to work,” I thought as I settled into my new home. “No matter the cost, promises must be kept.”
Confused, I glanced around the room. “Your family impatiently wait your arrival, Máirín, make haste and finish the tasks set. It’s time to move on.”
While I could hear familiar voices, the room was empty, devoid of life other than my own. That is how it ended, but the story I want to tell is how our lives led to this moment.
On the seventh day of December I awoke and realised it was time for my daughter to enter our world. My waters had broken, the first pains felt. It was two-thirty a.m. on Saturday morning. Exactly twenty-four hours passed before I was admitted. I hated hospitals, then and now, hence the delay.
“A boy: big and lazy,” the midwife claimed.”
“No,” I responded confidently. “My daughter is tiny, with dark hair and big blue eyes.”
The midwife smiled, her expression indicating that she knew best.
Eliza was born at 2.30pm on the eighth day of December. I adored her at first sight; but surely that is true of all mothers. She was tiny with big blue eyes and black hair. The glance cast at the nurse was fleeting, “I knew from the minute I conceived that my baby was a girl.”
Not a word was said, just a fleeting smile from the doctor: he won the bet. The midwife had never been wrong about the gender of the babies she delivered during her lengthy career.
“Tiny she may well be,” the young doctor laughingly claimed as he checked my daughter, “but she will give you the run around.”
Eliza was screaming, her face red, back ramrod straight.
When they brought my daughter to me for her first feed, I glanced at the nurse, “This can’t be Eliza, my daughter has black hair.”
“That wonderful black hair vanished when she was bathed. Máirín, your daughter is platinum blond.”
I sighed, glancing quickly at Eliza when she fell asleep while feeding. ‘Why,’ I thought, ‘did he have to be right?’
So many years have passed since my daughter was taken. Terrified, I fought for breath as I turned on the light. “Not again,” I thought as familiar footsteps approached my bedroom door. I gasped. Though the hall was dark, I could see his shadow.
‘Impossible,’ I thought, ‘surely no one can enter my home when the doors and windows are secure.’
In a bid to escape from his presence, I raced into the kitchen and reached for my favourite brand of tea. This beverage is, after all, a panacea of all ills… at least for us Brits. My eyes closed. The minute hand moved to two-thirty p.m. I heard his voice and wondered if my time had come. Only then did I acknowledge that although I longed for Death’s touch, it wasn’t to be. At least not yet.
Though the room was in silence, his words flowed into my mind, “Finish the books, Máirín, I can’t hold back the hands of time forever.”
My eyes opened. As they adjusted to the dark, I glanced around the bedroom. “A dream,” I whispered. Other than my own, the room was devoid of life.