Her Dying Time | 2

The year before our daughter died, we’d spent a great deal of time in hospitals. Our twins had nearly drowned; my husband had been electrocuted; our newly-adopted daughter had been hospitalized with pneumonia; my daughter-in-law nearly bled to death after childbirth, and Olivia had been hospitalized twice. Our son had undergone major surgery and had returned home needing a great deal of medical care. It was exhausting. I was not myself that year.

ico7 by you.Still, nobody had died. I recall greeting the new year with hope and a shelf full of Y2K provisions just in case the alarmists were right and the entire economy came crashing down around our heads. We could survive on pork and beans and macaroni and cheese for awhile, right? I have to smile wryly when I look back on the national Y2K fear, because what we feared would happen was nothing compared with what actually did happen during our own private Y2K crisis.

Olivia ended the year with a stay in PICU after going into shock due to dehydration. The residents had glared at me, as if I’d been withholding water from my poor little foster child, even though I told them that she was not a rented child, but my own daughter, and was being seen regularly at several clinics at that very hospital. Afraid and full of dread, I made the daily trips to and from the hospital, praying the whole way and asking God, “What’s going on here? Help me to see with Your eyes, O Lord. I’m afraid, and I don’t know what to do for my daughter. Help us!”

ico8 by you.

I love the Lord, because He hears my
 voice and my supplications
Because He has inclined His ear to me,
Therefore I shall call upon Him as long as I live. 
The cords of death encompassed me, 
And the terrors of Sheol came upon me;
I found distress and sorrow. 
Then I called upon the name of the LORD: 
“O LORD, I beseech Thee, save my life!”
(Psalm 116, NAS)

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One morning I pulled into the parking garage across from the hospital, having put a new CD into the CD player. It was Andrea Bocelli, a Christmas gift from a friend. I’d never heard him sing before. As the opening bars of Time to Say Goodbye played and Sarah Brightman began to sing, I felt myself transfixed even though I didn’t understand the Italian. How unbearably sweet and full of longing and sorrow it was. Every thoughtful pause led to another, and suddenly she sang, “time to say goodbye,” and I realized that this wasn’t about a CD someone had given me for Christmas. It was about a time for everything, a time to say goodbye, a time to die, and about Olivia and her impending death. I’d had no physician prophesy to me, but I knew. I knew in that moment, in the core of my being, that Olivia was going to die, and I sat in my car in the parking garage of the hospital that had become so familiar to us, and I cried and cried and cried.

ico9 by you.

Time to say goodbye

When I’m alone I dream of the horizon and words fail me.
There is no light in a room where there is no sun
and there is no sun if you’re not here with me, with me.
From every window unfurls my heart the heart that you have won.
Into me you’ve poured the light,
the light that you found by the side of the road.

Time to say goodbye.
Places that I’ve never seen or experienced with you.
Now I shall, I’ll sail with you upon ships across the seas,
seas that exist no more,
it’s time to say goodbye.

When you’re far away I dream of the horizon and words fail me.
And of course I know that you’re with me, with me.
You, my moon, you are with me.
My sun, you’re here with me with me, with me, with me.

Time to say goodbye.
Places that I’ve never seen or experienced with you.
Now I shall, I’ll sail with you upon ships across the seas,
seas that exist no more,

I’ll revive them with you.
I’ll go with you upon ships across the seas,
seas that exist no more,
I’ll revive them with you.
I’ll go with you.

You and me.

ico8 by you.

When I went up to the PICU, I saw that rounds were in progress, and I noticed Olivia’s nephrologist, Dr. Williams, with several residents around her bed. Until that morning, nobody had been able to tell us what, exactly, was wrong with our 11-year-old daughter, but we knew it involved her kidney function.

As I approached, Dr. Williams turned a kindly but serious face toward me and began to talk. The look on his face told me what was coming: your daughter is dying. He said that before we had even adopted Olivia, reflux of urine into her kidneys had destoryed the entire core (renal medulla) of her kidneys. By the time we adopted her and a urologist fixed the reflux, it was too late. Her kidneys had sustained so much damage that they eventually had to give out. And now, they were giving out.

“The fire is over,” Dr. Williams said, “and we’re dealing with the ashes now.” I recall the exact place where we were standing as he said this, the beeps and twitters of medical equipment in the PICU, the feeling that my head was floating above my body, the fidgeting of the residents who looked everywhere but at Olivia or me as I was told that my daughter was dying.

“We’re dealing with the ashes now.” That much destruction. I was glad that Olivia was mercifully asleep.

Not only were Olivia’s kidneys barely functioning, but her body made too much acid, too much salt, and too much urine due to nephrogenic diabetes insipidus, a rare complication of her medical condition. She was always on the road to dehydration, no matter how many fluids she drank. All they could do, he told us, was to keep pumping her full of IV fluids, which over-taxed her body and contributed to more renal failure. In short, every hospitalization hastened our child’s death, every time we rushed to the emergency room, the very treatment that alleviated the symptoms brought her one step closer to the grave.

Oh, dear God. Dear God in heaven, what? What? What? What?

I knew it. I knew before I ever entered this hospital, and now I really know it, and I don’t want it to be true.


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