Feb 8, 2011

A Sweet Memory

I was just telling a writer friend a story from my past that I think others will enjoy. In 1995, I gave birth to a daughter who lived just thirteen months. She had Patau's syndrome, a chromosomal abnormality that typically results in multiple birth defects and either miscarriage, stillbirth, or, at most, death within the first year of life. Kyndall was different. Though premature, she refused to die in the NICU, responding and improving each time my young son would sing to her. Her thirteen months of life were challenging, but precious. She was a determined, happy baby, and her spirit touched everyone who came in contact with her, especially the many doctors and nurses who cared for her. I'm convinced that she saw angels when she looked out her bedroom window, because she'd smile and giggle, something she never did for any of us. And when it was time for her to leave us, during her final day on earth, she waved goodbye to everyone who came in and spoke to her. It was so incredible, because we'd been trying to get her to wave for months, but she never did until that day. She could barely breathe in the final hours, but that tiny hand kept waving away until she fell asleep and quietly crossed over.

A year after Kyndall passed away, we were blessed with a second daughter. From the time she was old enough to understand, we showed her photos of Kyndall, and explained that she'd had a sister, now in heaven. She would often speak of Kyndall and ask us questions about her. When my daughter was two, she started asking me to tell her "Kyndall stories" at bedtime. She wanted them to be about the two of them playing together, and I'd create scenarios off the top of my head. While I told them, she'd stop me from time to time and ask things like, "Are we wearing pretty white dresses that match? Are we wearing bows in our hair?" I'd affirm that they were. She'd have the most contented smile when she drifted off to sleep.

One morning, when my daughter was not quite three, she was sitting in the dining room waiting for breakfast I was making in the kitchen. I looked through the doorway and saw her smiling and waving. We were living in a townhouse at the time, and there was a walking path for residents of our cluster running alongside the decks. I asked her who she was waving at, thinking she could see a neighbor she recognized through the french doors. But, very matter-of-factly, she said, "Kyndall. She's sitting in the tree." I walked to her side and asked her where she was looking. "Right there, on that big branch," she says, pointing. I saw nothing, so I asked her if Kyndall was hidden behind some leaves. "No, Mama! RIGHT THERE! Don't you see her waving??" I admitted I didn't see anything, and my daughter began to get upset and tear up. "Mommy, she's RIGHT THERE!!" I finally told her Kyndall was probably there just for her. I have no doubt whatsoever that she saw her sister waving in that tree. It was the sweetest moment. We've had a ficus tree in our house for many years. One day, soon after that event, I gave my daughter a small picture of Kyndall, one of her sitting cross-legged, and let my daughter cut it out. I placed it in that ficus tree, and it's been there ever since, over ten years now.

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