Looking Back a Year

Molly with cupcake face

May 2nd, 2016. I was visiting family friends for the weekend in Chapel Hill and had stayed an extra day to work remotely from there. Things were chill. Enjoyable.

It was pre-dawn and my phone was ringing. Dazed and confused about where I was, why someone was calling at that hour, and whether I was still dreaming, I finally reached for my phone and looked at the screen. It was Sharon. There was already a message. I listened but could not comprehend. I called her back. The words, “I think we’ve lost our Molly” did not make any sense.

Molly with cupcake facepaint

We talked more. Ever so slowly, I woke up to the most dreadful reality that my niece was hovering between life and death. There was a brain tumor. They weren’t certain if there was anything that could be done. She was on her way to Dartmouth Hospital where an excellent neurosurgeon would try to put our world back together again.

I would get up, stumble to the kitchen for some coffee, and explain to others in the house that my niece, my dear sweet niece, might not live. “This cannot be real,” I kept saying to myself. How does one go from very much alive to very much not?

For the next few days, I worked half-heartedly, sorted out work projects, regrouped, repacked, quickly booked air tickets and flew back up north to be with family. We rented a car and drove straight to the hospital.

Molly surrounded by Gracie and friendsThere were the tubes, the beeping machines, the people, the tears, the balloons, the flowers, the questions, and the uncertainties. So many classmates and dance friends of Molly’s, as well as family and friends, showed up at the hospital. None of it made sense, but Barb, ever the teacher to capture a teachable moment and soothe others’ hearts, would patiently, lovingly explain Molly’s stillness, the existence and removal of the undetected tumor, and what all those tubes were doing to help keep her body alive. As the hours and days progressed, there was no progress for Molly. By Friday, it was clear what had to be done, and on Saturday, May 7th at noon, Molly officially died.

Sometimes words cannot describe what the heart feels, especially in moments like this when the world goes dark and grief takes over. This one was a deep grief that consumed our family for the past year – and Molly’s sister and parents most of all. Each time I visited with them, I left with the realization that every fiber of my being wanted to be able to take away their grief. But I couldn’t. Such is the way the universe works.

Tomorrow and the next day and the next day and the next day… that’s where my hope lies. May the year ahead soothe these tired, ragged, grief stricken hearts.