Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Remembered for the light

This is an insanely hard topic to write about.

I didn't know Rebeka any better than anyone who only got a limited insight into her last days from the evening news and the papers. A four year old little girl, with a mysterious disease that attacked her liver, her doctors and her family struggled for her life for days. She was the first to receive a liver transplant from a live donor - her father. For few days there was hope, then the new organ also stopped functioning, attacked by the same disease that ruined her own liver. Days went by waiting for a new donor while her condition grew worse. Then finally they found a new donor. The news reported that the new, second transplant seems to be working okay after the operation. And then one day later her much troubled tiny body gave up and she died from a sudden pneumonial hemorrhage.

I can't imagine what her family went through in the last days. Her father gave up part of his liver. They probably went from hope to dispair and back again one too many times. It must have been a living hell. It probably still is.

They said in the evening news yesterday that she died a few minutes before 6 PM. I'm definitely not superstitious, but I recalled that exactly five minutes before 6 PM, I was in public bath (there was a clock on the wall, that's why I recall the time) with my son - I was watching for him while he was having fun on the waterslide after his swimming lesson, and suddenly I was overcome with the feeling that something is wrong with my own four-year old daughter; I had a vision of her badly injured, on life support in a hospital. I was trying to convince myself that she's fine, she's with my sister who happens to be a doctor and who earlier spent a year being a full-time au-pair. The vision was so strong though that it was very hard to fight the urge to go from the pool back to the wardrobe and call my sister on the phone immediately. I managed for another five minutes, then told Ákos we're going home. As I said, I'm not superstitious, I believe it is a coincidence, but an eerie coincidence nonetheless.

Children die in this world. It is one of facts of universe that is hardest to come to terms with. Actually, I don't think I can come to terms with it. Almost a year ago Álmos, a little boy, a kindergarten playmate of my son, died. He had a heart condition since his birth and went through several heart surgeries during the few years of his life. His parents were completely devoted to ensuring a normal life to their son. They were with him on every surgery, they were going to special gymnastics and swimming to make his heart stronger. They put in enormous effort into it. There was to be one last surgery that would finally allow him to grow up into a normal young man, with next surgery not due until he is in his twenties. He died during that surgery - an air bubble accidentally got released into his cardiovascular system, and burst a vein inside his brain. I heard that the surgeon admitted responsibility. I remember how my own heart sank when I saw the black flag on the kindergarten's facade. I also remember my own helpless rage when I first thought how a young soul in perfect mental health was denied the wonders of childhood, of growing up, of taking part in fullest in the wonder of existence, just because he was as unlucky as to be bound to a body with a bad heart and whose surgeon made one bad move.

We met the parents one day after the funeral in the cemetery - we were unable to attend the funeral, so we went to the cemetery one day later. My son wanted to say goodbye to his friend as well - he is a highly sensible and intelligent little kid and he learned to accept that death of our beloved ones is part of our lives when we lost my wife's mother nearly three years ago. Anyway, we were already leaving the cemetery when we came across the parents who were then coming to cemetery. I was unable to say anything comforting to them. I never before faced people grieving over the loss of their child. I didn't feel uttering any of the typical phrases was appropriate. I felt that whatever I said would sound cheap, and cheapening this tragedy was out of the question. Finally I told them the only thing that I could say honestly: "I would love to be able to say something wise and comforting to you. Alas, I can not. I can not think of any words that would be appropriate for your tragedy."

And I still can not.

May you always be remembered for the light you brought into the lives of your beloved ones while you were with them.

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