LOST and FOUND
“Please Daddy, just to the park... I'd love to see the wildflowers...”
The man sighed and regarded his tearful daughter as she sat on her bed in the room where she had spent so much time for the past six months. Too much
time; time when she should have been out on her bike or at the fitness center, time when she should have been doing all the things high-school senior
girls loved to do. But Helen's time this last half year had been spent either at the hospital, undergoing radiotherapy or chemo sessions, or here at
home in her room, trying to recover from the ravages of both the disease that afflicted her and the treatments she'd had to endure.
Jack loved his daughter. That sounds clichéd, but it was the simple truth, a truth that only really hit home to him when he went to the specialist
with Helen and her mother to get the diagnosis. Was it really only six months ago? Could the world change that much in so little time? Could his
daughter's life and all their lives be turned inside out in just those few short but agonisingly long, painful months?
“Please, Daddy,” she repeated. “I feel well enough. Really
“Helly, you have to rest. You need every last bit of your strength to – to fight your illness.”
It sounded lame even to him, but Jack was caught in that despairing place between wanting his daughter to be free, to be able to do anything she
wanted, and the almost instinctive need to protect her and try and shelter her from something he couldn't just grab by the scruff of the neck and hurl
Helen bowed her head, the long hair of her wig hiding her face. “I know. But I'm so tired of fighting, Daddy. I'm so tired.”
“Sometimes I just wish it were over!” she blurted. “Either let me get well or let me die! I hate this... I hate
my life. I hate it I hate
it I hate
“Sweetheart, please don't say – ”
“Oh – and this
thing –” She grabbed her wig in both hands and hurled it across the room.
“Helly, your hair will grow back. And soon you'll be able to do everything you did bef– ”
be able to, Daddy.” She looked up at him and her eyes showed something he'd never seen before and it chilled him. It wasn't
anger, it wasn't despair or sadness or self-pity, it was a look of absolute Knowing.
Her tone softened as she continued, “There is no soon, there is no later. Don't you see? You have
Jack couldn't answer that one. He knew – oh yes, he knew, because he'd been told by the specialists almost a month ago that there was very little
hope now. They hadn't put it quite in those words but that's what they meant. So he knew, but knowing something and taking it on board were two very
different things and in that particular battle between heart and mind, his heart had always won.
Up till now.
Jack felt tears welling up and he couldn't hold them back. He'd always managed before but now, as his daughter forced his mind to win that battle, the
tears came. She was his youngest, she was the surprise, the almost-miracle child who came along when his others were already well into their teens.
She'd been showered with love by everyone, her three older sisters almost fighting over who would bathe her or feed her or take her out to a park or
read her stories, her only brother coming home from college every summer and spending at least a few hours with her almost every day to make up for
the lost time while he'd been away studying.
Helen had made them stronger as a family, more together and more loving each for the other than he could ever imagine, and now – now she was going
to leave them and Jack cried.
“Daddy?” Helen had never seen her father cry before and it grieved her. Her mother Monika cried often; Helen had heard her at night and seen how
her eyes looked in the mornings before she went off to the job she'd taken on to help pay all the bills. But if her father had ever cried, she'd never
known about it.
“I'm sorry... I – I'm sorry...”
“Oh Daddy, it's okay...”
Helen got up and went to her father and held him and as he knelt there on the carpet, not even aware that he'd gone to his knees, his daughter held
him close and rocked him and spoke softly, words of comfort and calm that he could never recall but in some ways would never forget. The only thing he
was able to remember exactly was when she said, “I've not given up, Daddy. When I said I hate my life, I didn't mean it. I just meant – I meant I
hate what's happening
in my life. But I'll never give up. Just because we know what's going to be, that doesn't mean I won't try and hold on
for every last second of life that I can.”
About a week later Jack got home from work and Monika met him at the door. He felt a jolt go through him and his attaché case fell from his hand.
“No,” he whispered.
Monika bit her lip. “She's – she's still with us, Jack. She's still with us. But when I got home, I found her lying on the floor in the living
room and she was so weak...”
Jack hurried inside and they went up the stairs together towards Helen's room. “Did you call the doctor?”
“Yes, she came right over. She said that – that she could rally again but –” Monika paused on the stairs and wiped her eyes. “Damn these
He nodded and forced a half-smile. “What else did she say?”
“She said... She said that probably it won't be long now. Maybe – maybe a few days. A week, maybe a little more. She – she said it's hard to
say...” She bit her lip. “Oh Jack, what are we going to do
He clenched her hand tighter and after a few moments of hopelessly searching their minds for answers they knew would never be there, Jack opened the
door and they went in. Helen looked so different from when he'd seen her less than ten hours earlier that it shocked him.
“Hi,” she whispered.
“Hi, champ.” Jack sat on the edge of the bed and touched her cheek. “What's this I hear about you lying around on the living room floor?”
Helen closed her eyes and offered a wan smile. “It seemed a good place to lie at the time.”
“I – I guess it did.” He took her hand and she managed to grasp his fingers for a moment.
Monika came and stood by the bed. “Are you – are you feeling better now, honey?”
Helen half-opened her eyes for a moment. “I feel fine. No pain now. Just need to sleep...”
Her mother reached down and stroked some stray hair away from her daughter's face, wishing as always that it was Helen's own, real hair. “Would you
like us to stay with you until you're asleep?”
A slight movement of her head. “I'd like that,” she breathed. Then her smile flickered again and she added, “And don't worry. It won't be
tonight. Not tonight. I promise...”
Jack held her hand until she was asleep. As he stood and took his wife's hand and they began to leave the room she whispered, “Shouldn't one of us
stay with her?”
He paused and looked back at his sleeping daughter. “I think she wants us to get some rest, too. That's why she told us – what she told us.”
Monika's lips trembled. “Okay.”
The parents left the room and gently closed the door.
(Continued in PART III
edit on 14/7/12 by JustMike because: coding