CREDOS : A new start — II

Maybe the minister could make jokes about heaven, but I couldn’t. Not with us so unsure about the state of Denise’s health. When Denise’s father and I took her to the hospital, we didn’t talk about heaven. We stuck to happier subjects.

What we would do when Denise was better, the new football team at the high school, and the garden I was planning for the yard. Jack and I settled into her room. “We’ll be here when you wake up,” I told Denise as the orderly wheeled her away.

“I know, Mom,” she said, her grin wide even now. After the surgery was over,

the doctor met us in his office. Our worst fears had come true. The cancer had spread to Denise’s spinal cord. It was too far advanced to treat. “You may be able to take her home in a few days,” the doctor told us, “but she won’t have much time after that.” I moved as if in a fog to Denise’s hospital room, where she was still sleeping off the anesthesia. I looked at her face, trying to memorise it forever, all the details, down to her pierced ears.

That’s what she’d wanted for her sixteenth birthday. We went down to the mall and picked out her first pair of earrings. Could it really have been only seven months ago? Slowly, Denise came to, groggy at first. I sat with her into the night. We talked about little things. She dozed on and off. “You’re really going to start a garden, Mom?” she asked. I nodded, swallowing my tears. Denise would never see it bloom. —