Her breath fogged the glass as Mary let out a gasp. On the other side of the glass lay her ten-years-old granddaughter, Lisa, her body frail on the white bed. Her mother Lizzy sat on a chair next to her, her hands clutching on Lisa's hand. Ryan stood over them, his hand gently stroking Lisa's hair.
Looking at Lizzy reminded her of herself. No matter how confidently she smiled, there were still some people who could see through the smile and directly to the uncertainty that she was trying so hard to hide. Mary hoped Lisa was not one of them.
Mary slowly walked away from the window and placed herself on the chair. Her mind raced back to another time, sometime when she was bit younger and Lizzy was just fourteen-years-old.
"I'm afraid your daughter's leukemia has returned," Dr. Martin said, a pile of reports on hishand.
"What do mean returned? You said it was cured," she almost yelled. Richard put his arm around her and pulled her closer to her.
"Mary, I understand it must be very difficult to you. Your daughter' has relapsed. I am sorry but she will have to undergo treatments soon."
For Mary, it felt like her world had shattered. She felt shocked, hurt, sad, angry, scared, anxious, helpless and guilty all at the same time. It was like reliving some of the worst moments of her life, the ones she felt weak even when thinking about.
Richard pulled her closer to him. "So, what have we got to do now?" he asked, his tone calm but his voice reflected the same mixture of emotions that she was feeling.
"We need to some more checkups to decide what to do next. But for now, I suggest you go and talk to her. Give her some time. But please be quick. We need to star treatment as soon as we can."
Mary looked up as the door opened. Lizzy and Ryan emerged. The way Ryan held Lizzy reminded her how Richard had held her once.
Through the window, she could see a doctor talking to Lisa. She knew what it was. He was talking to her to lift up her mood before her first chemo session.
Lizzy had taken a seat next to Mary. The colour had drained out from her face. Mary put a hand on her lap. Lizzy turned to face Mary.
"Mum, I can't go through this again. I don’t want to lose Sarah."
Mary swallowed hard. She didn’t think Lizzy noticed her simple mistake, but Lizzy's words sent Mary back to the most horrid moment of her life.
"I can't go through this again… Sarah."
It was Lizzy who came running to the kitchen. Mary was preparing the table for breakfast. Richard was away for work.
"Mum, Sarah is not waking up."
Mary rushed to the door of her older daughter, stepping right over the small pieces of china that had been a beautiful plate on her hand few minutes ago. Upon reaching Sarah's bed, she put her hands around Sarah and pulled her unconscious body up.
"Lizzy, call the doctor, " Mary turned over and shouted.
As Lizzy reached out for the phone on the table, something else caught Mary's attention; a small piece of paper on which Sarah had scribbled something. She caught the small jar that held the paper in place and took a look at the paper. She gasped. Slowly, her eyes moved to her other hand. She felt faint when realization struck her. The jar in her hand was Sarah's empty bottle of painkillers. The note fell down her hand. It read: "I am sorry. I cannot go through this anymore. Love, Sarah."
Lizzy had started to sob. Ryan put his arms around her.
"You can't go weak now."
Lizzy nodded. She got up and walked up to the window. Mary quietly followed her. She put her hand on Lizzy's shoulder. Looking at Lisa made her miss Sarah even more. Mary always thought that Lisa resembled Sarah a lot but watching her on the hospital bed made her realize how true her prediction had been.
What would Sarah had done if she was here? She remembered her daughter before her first session of chemo.
Lizzy was crying on her bedside. Sarah said, "Hey, what are you crying about? I won't miss your recital Friday." And then, she smiled. It was a weak smile but it was what gave Mary, Richard and Lizzy the much needed hope.
After Sarah's death, Mary had always regretted failing to see the pain that Sarah was hiding. She wished she had not worried about Sarah's health so much and allowed her to go to the Homecoming.
She put her hand on Lizzy's shoulder. Lizzy was fighting back the tears that were welling up in her eyes. Mary knew how much that simple action was paining her. Finally, she spoke:
”Lizzy, you don’t have to go through it again. You don’t have to lose Lisa. You are in the same position I was and you have the same choices. But, you don’t have to repeat the same mistake again. You will make it through it and you will still have Lisa at the end of all this."
At this, Lizzy turned back and hugged her mother, she held on to her tight as finally the tears that had been restrained for so long began to fall slowly down her cheeks.