UPDATE: The Making of an Angel

Session VI- Final Grades
ARC6-A Theme and Strategy 75 %
ARC6-B 1,000-1,500-word Written Assignment 98 %

This is the final writing assignment that I’m sending in to my instructor at school. I will soon have my diploma and hopefully I’ve learned me something. Enjoy! P.S. This is what the original story looked like when I posted it a while back.

                       -January 25th, 1988-


I was 8 years old when my little sister, Bethann, was rubbing my mom’s bulbous belly for the millionth time. I was excited for the impending birth of my baby brother. This was my chance to have a non-bratty-not-so-annoying sibling. Beth was the most excited though as this was her chance to play mommy to a real baby.

We often caught Beth talking into my mom’s belly, playing with the baby’s toys and referring to him as her baby.

I should have been a lot more excited but I was nervous because I’d been through this part twice before and it only resulted in me having one sibling to live with and one living in Heaven; as my parents say.

Bethann, my grandma, and I decided to throw my mom a baby shower. My grandma let me pick out all the decorations and arranging of the flowers in her living room. She also took Beth and I to the store to pick out the infant seat my mom really wanted.

My mom was so surprised by the shower and even cried when she opened the infant seat. My mom gave us each a tender hug while she thanked us for all the hard work we did. Beth and I explained —in detail— what role we each had in planning the baby shower.

I couldn’t help but feel an over-whelming sense of something’s-not-quite-right about my mom’s face or the way she hugged me. It felt like she was trying to heal a wound that I didn’t know I had.

-February 14th, 1988-

I sat on the swing set in my grandma’s backyard absent-mindedly wondering what my parents were doing at the hospital with my brother. They stayed gone for so long I always missed them when they returned, more so than ever before.

When Bethann was born she was only in the hospital a week and then her little tiny self got to come home. It’s been 10 days since baby Richard was born and he still hasn’t come home yet and I’m still at my grandma’s house. The same thing happened when baby Joshua was born.

I hardly got to see my parents together without crying. I spent so much time in this backyard until he came home one night only to go back in a rush because he’d stopped breathing. Back to grandmas I went. He never came home after that. He went to Heaven my mom reassured me.

This time feels different and a little bit the same, I thought to myself, as I dug the tip of my toe into the grass causing me to sway instead of swing. I wonder what baby Richard looks like. I bet he’s really small, Mom said he would be since he was be born early. I remembered that day in the doctor’s office so clearly.

*                                              *                                              *

The chair I sat in was blue plastic with silver legs and my mom said they were uncomfortable to sit in. I sat criss-cross apple sauce in them. We weren’t sitting very long after mom signed her name on the clipboard and told the lady at the window that she had called earlier.

“What magazine is that Alena?” my mom said sitting down next to me.

“I dunno. It had a pregnant lady on the front,” I answered without looking up.

“Toni Muse,” the nurse called out to the waiting room while holding the door open. My mom made her way to the door, looking back at me, only to notice I was standing right behind her.

“No. You need to stay out here. Just read your magazine, I won’t be long,” she swallowed deeply. “I promise.”

“But I want to come with you and see the baby on the T.V,” I whined. I didn’t understand why I couldn’t go with her, I always had before.

“No. Not this time Alena,” she said firmly.

Returning to my seat I began thumbing through the magazine again only this time I was just flipping through the pages not really paying attention to the pictures. A torrent of thoughts whirled in my mind like a kid on a merry-go-round. I wonder what they’re doing in there, why couldn’t I go in with my Mom. I hope she’s ok? I’m old enough to go in, I thought.

The waiting room filled up and as the minutes ticked by, people would disappear behind the brown door my mom went through earlier, after awhile the same people came back through and then left; but not my mom.

After getting a drink for the tenth time and using the restroom for the fourth time I began getting more and more restless, when all of a sudden a nurse came out and sat next to me.

“You doing ok out here?” she said while patting my back. “She’s almost done. I’m sorry you had to wait out here so long.” She stood and leaned over to hug me.

“Can you ask my mom to hurry-up?” I said hugging her back.

“Ok, I will.” The nurse disappeared through the brown door.

About twenty minutes later my mom came out and I ran to her.

“Can we go home now?” I’m so bored out here.”

“Alena, grandma will be here in a couple minutes. You’re going with her,” she said in a shaky voice.

I noticed her eyes were puffy and red. She looked like she’d been crying.

“Are you ok Mom?” I asked hesitantly.

“We are going to have the baby to—,” she tried to explain when I cut her off.

“Yes! Oh my goodness!” I screeched. All the waiting had paid off; I’d get to meet my baby brother soon. “Are we going to go get your bags?” I asked.

“Daddy’s already on his way with them,” my mom answered.

“Do I get to stay and watch the baby be born then?” I could feel my excitement deflating.

“No honey. The baby is in trouble, he’s having a hard time breathing so he has to be born today. The doctors have to do a C-section,” she explained while tucking a piece of hair behind my ear.

“What’s a C-section?”

“It’s a surgery where they cut my belly open,” she continued to explain summing it up with, “so that’s why you have to stay at grandma’s.” A tear was making its way down her cheek.

“Alright, but can I see him soon…” I asked, adding, “no matter what time of day it is when he’s finally born?”

“As soon as you can I will let you see him, ok?” she said gliding her fingers along my chin.

“Ok.” I resolved.

A short time later my grandma met us outside in the smoking area. We stopped at my house to gather up some clothes and pick my sister up from pre-school. My cousin Mike lived with my grandparents and he was my same age. Day’s passed by while we colored, made muffins, watched movies, walked to the corner store for soda and played on the swing set before the routine started over again. My parents came to my grandma never together, never looking happy, only long enough to eat, shower, and sleep. They were always gone before I woke up.

*                                              *                                              *

BANG! The screen door slammed behind me. Bethann must be up from her nap and out hunting me down so she could follow me around; and annoy me to death.

“Do you want a push on that swing?” my dad asked trudging over to me.

“Daddy!” I yelled running towards him. “Where’s Mom?” I asked while he tossed me up into a hug. I missed him. I missed my bedroom and my friends. But most importantly I was worried about my family.

“She’s still at the hospital.” He said while hugging me tightly; too tightly.

“Can we go see the baby now?” I asked hoping he’d say yes.

“I’m not sure. We will ask mom later when she comes home for dinner, ok?” He was still holding me in a bear hug with my feet dangling off the ground.

My mom came home after George Jetson zoomed off the screen and just before Grandma called us to the dinner table. She ate and then took a nap on my grandparents’ bed. Just as Little “House on the Prairie” came on, the phone rang. My dad answered, and spoke for a few minutes then motioned for my Grandma to come closer to him. He cupped the end of the phone and whispered, “Go get Toni. Wake her up.” He looked worried; panicked even.

My grandma helped put my sister and me in the car and we buckled our seat belts. I knew right away something was wrong. We never left after dinner, especially this late at night.

“Are we going to see the baby now, Daddy?” I inquired.

“Yes Alena,” and that’s all he said during the entire thirty minute drive to the UCLA hospital where my brother was. My parents kept their faces straight and emotionless as well as keeping the impending doom to themselves. When we pulled into the underground parking garage, it all looked too familiar. It was the same hospital and parking garage that my brother Joshua had died at five years earlier, instantly my heart sank and a knot began to form in my throat. We followed my dad into the hospital and rode the elevator up to the fourth floor. Yep, same floor too.

“Daddy is Baby Richard going to come home with us today?” I begged him, fighting my tears because I was afraid of the answer.

“I’m not sure sweetie,” he replied.

My reality took on a blurry sensation of worry, sadness, and disappointment. When the doors finally opened we were immediately greeted by a lady in a blue business suit.

“Hello girls. Come with me while your mom and dad go check on your baby brother, ok?” Mrs. Blue-suit said in a chipper voice. “We have a chalk board you can draw on in here.” She pointed as she opened a door.

Beth and I didn’t know Mrs. Blue-suit; technically she was a stranger to us, but when I turned to look at my daddy he was already gone. Reluctantly I followed Mrs. Blue-suit into a big conference room with a big table in the middle and chairs surrounding it. The far wall held a huge chalk green chalk board. Beth and I started drawing with the boring white chalk while the lady started talking to us as if I were a toddler also.

“Did your parents tell you anything about your baby brother?” she asked quietly.

“Yeah. That he’s sick and needs to stay in the hospital to get better. Are we taking him home? Is that why we are here tonight,” I bombarded her with questions. Maybe she’ll answer me I thought.

“Your baby brother—“

“Richard. His name is Richard. Not baby brother.” I corrected her.

“Richard is getting sicker instead of getting better. I want to talk to you about what to expect when you see him tonight.” Mrs. Blue-suit said while sitting down in a one of the big chairs.

“We get to see him?” I asked with excitement while continuing to draw on the chalk board.

“Yes, your mom and dad want you to meet him.”

“Does he look like me?” I asked while pondering my next questions.

“Sort of Honey. He’s got blonde hair like you and blue eyes like your dad. But he looks like he’s been out in the sun and got sunburned. His skin is kind of red and he is really tiny. He has tubes going into his nose to help him breathe. He has wires on his chest to monitor his heart and an I.V. giving him nutrients.”

“Why is he red?” I asked as we both slowly sat down across from Mrs. Blue-suit.

“Well, he can’t expel the toxins inside his body that are making him sick. His kidneys are shutting down and your kidneys help get rid of those toxins.”

“Is he going to get better?” I asked looking at her with my full attention. I wanted to see her face and make sure I didn’t miss anything.

“Probably not, Sweetie. The doctors have tried everything to help him. Your parents are in there with him right now.” She tilted her head to one side making her look kind and not stranger anymore.

“Can we go in there too?”

“Yes, they’re getting him ready, so you can meet him. When the phone rings right there,” she pointed to the phone sitting on a table in the corner, “then we can go in.”

Looking down at my hands I asked, “Can we draw on the chalk board some more?”

“Sure,” she said softly.

We continued to draw until it was us just doodling. I wanted to leave but I couldn’t. My sister was right next to me and she kept sneaking peeks up at me. I could see her out of the corner of my eye as I drew. I had to not cry, even though I wanted too. I had to be her big strong sister.

Ring! Ring! Ring! We stopped dead in our tracks, placing the chalk in the silver tray and turned around to look at Mrs. Blue-suit while she spoke to someone on the phone.

Placing the phone back down, she asked, “Are you two ready to go see your baby brother Richard?”

“Yes,” we both responded in unison.

We made our way into a bright room with a big sink. We had to wash our hands with a special orange soap and put on a hospital gown over our clothes. My sister and I were nearly finished when my dad came into the room. He hugged us and grabbed our hands leading us over to a plastic baby bed where my mom was standing. It was quiet and not very bright in the room and there were soft quiet beeping noises.

I was starting to get really nervous and kind of scared. I didn’t know what he was going to look like. I didn’t know if I should touch him or not. I certainly didn’t want to cry. When I looked up at my mom her eyes were watering and she had a tissue in her hand.

My sister and I stood on a step stool next to the crib and that’s when we first saw him. In my mind I was expecting to see a creature with three fingers, red skin, spewing green stuff. What I wasn’t expecting was a beautiful baby, sleeping peacefully as the monitors recorded his heart beeps; which I knew were numbered.

He laid there with his tiny feet and tiny hands and itty bitty diaper. He wasn’t squirming or moving at all, just his chest rising and falling with each struggling breath.

“He likes to be touched. You can run your fingers across his eye brows if you want.” My mom said.

“No. I don’t want to.” I said feeling like I’d break him if I did. I couldn’t help but feel so sad. I just kept pondering the possibilities. He has to get better. Will he always be in the hospital if he does or…is he really going to die?

“Mom, is he going to live?”

“No. He isn’t going to make it much longer Alena. I’m so sorry honey,” she said wiping another tear before it traveled down her cheek. “That’s why you’re in here tonight. We wanted you to meet him before he goes to Heaven.”

I was shocked, paralyzed in the moment. What do I do? What do I say? Why is this happening…again?”

“How much longer until he goes to Heaven?” I asked trying to be brave and prepare myself.

“We don’t know. Just try to be with him right now. Try to just stay with him until you are ready to let go…ok?” she said in a whisper. I knew she was trying to be strong for me because I was trying to be strong for my little sister.

How do I know when I’m ready to let go? I don’t want to let go, I want to stay with him.

“I want to take him home. I don’t want to leave him here Mom.” I began to whimper.

“We can’t honey. He won’t make it at home. He can’t stay on all of these monitors either because they aren’t helping him much anymore.”

My sister had started rubbing his eye brow when one eye slowly opened. He did have blue eyes. In that moment I knew I didn’t want to go anywhere yet. As long as I stayed right next to him, he wouldn’t die. He wouldn’t go anywhere. I would have stayed there forever if it would have kept him alive.

It was Valentine’s Day and I had noticed someone taped the Valentine’s Day cards we made for him on his crib. About an hour later his monitors started beeping a little faster and that’s when my mom said we could go to the cafeteria and get some ice cream if we wanted.

“Good bye baby Richard. I love you so much.” I said as I gently touched his forehead, then I stepped down and took Mrs. Blue-suit’s hand.

“Bye baby. I love you,” my sister told him while sniffling as she cried.

We headed down the hall to the elevator towards the cafeteria with the lady. She brought us our ice cream and we sat in total silence eating it. There was no one else in the cafeteria, just us three.

“Are you two ok? Do you have any questions that you’d like to ask?” Mrs. Blue-suit said.

I looked at my little sister and I knew I was speaking for both of us. “After we are finished can we go see our dad?”

“Yes, of course.”

*                                              *                                              *

We walked back to the elevator and reached the fourth floor for the last time. Stepping out of the elevator I immediately saw my dad leaning against the wall with his sunglasses on and his hat pulled down low.

“Daddy, are you ok?” I asked as one tear trickled down his cheek. In that moment I realized I had never in my life seen my daddy cry. I put my arms around his waist and hugged him.

“Yes, I’ll be fine,” he responded with a chocked up voice. I knew by the sound that he was fighting so stiffly to keep it together; to be strong for us. The lump in my throat was causing me so much pain.

“Is he gone Daddy?” I mumbled into his shirt.

“Yes. Your mom is in there holding him,” he said as he grabbed us tighter as my little sister began to hug his leg.

I fought back the tears for so long I couldn’t hold them back anymore. I needed to be alone. My stomach was aching and I wanted to just be mad. Mad at someone— someone for hurting me like this, hurting my mom and dad; and my sister. Mad for taking him away from us.

“I need to go to the bathroom.”

I walked into the ladies room and stared at myself in the mirror. Hoping and praying no one would walk in one me. I didn’t want anyone to see me cry. I was so angry and so upset. I wanted the pain in my throat to go away. I wanted to cry for a hundred hours if that would ease the pain. I wanted to get to know baby Richard. I wanted to push him on the swings at Grandma’s, I wanted to play with him, feed him, rock him to sleep. I wanted a brother to play baseball with. I didn’t want my mom and dad crying anymore. I didn’t want to have to take back all the stuff we bought him at the baby shower. I began crying and just letting it all out. I almost couldn’t control myself.

I knew what had happened to him. He succumbed to the many different things that were plaguing his tiny fragile body and he couldn’t fight any longer. Fourteen days is a long time for an infant to fight for his life.

I wiped my face clean and dry with the rough brown paper towels. I tried to make it look like I wasn’t crying before I came out. I made a promise to my reflection that I wouldn’t cry over him anymore. I wouldn’t cry or do anything that would upset my parents. I was going to be strong and not be a pain in the ass. I would do whatever it took to make everyone happy. Even if it was hard to do, I would. It would stop them from feeling pain and sadness. I wouldn’t mention his name anymore, in fear it would make them cry again.

I walked out into the hallway and my dad was standing there, with his sunglasses still on.

“Are you ok?” He asked.

“Yes! I’m fine. I just had…had to use the bathroom,” I said trying to disguise my shaking voice.

My dad excused himself and went into the bathroom as well. That’s when I heard the loud crashing and banging noises. I heard something loud hit the floor. About twenty minutes later my dad came out with his knuckles red and his sunglasses still on.

*                                              *                                              *

The rest of the night was a blur as we drove back to my grandparent’s house, without my baby brother. Walking into the house, my grandma comforted me with cereal and a movie in her bedroom. Noting in my head that we were never allowed to eat in her room and yet she was letting me have cereal in bed. I didn’t bother to question her. My sister had fallen asleep on the way back in the car.

The days following the death of my brother Richard were frustrating to say the least. We had to carry on as if nothing happened. My mom was often crying or sleeping or gone somewhere. My dad went back to work. On weekends we went to my grandma’s house where my sister and I played with Mike in the back yard. I had to go back to school and pay attention in class, when all I wanted to do was sit and stare and day dream about my brother and ponder my many questions to God.

One weekend, I walked out to my grandpa’s garage where my mom and dad were. I normally would have knocked but I wanted to know why everyone was out here. That’s when I opened the door and found my mom crying again and my dad trying to console her. She was holding something in her hands.

“What’s going on everyone?” I asked.

“Come here,” my mom said. I walked over to her and sat on her knee looking at a white ceramic heart shaped container she was holding.

“What’s that mom?” I inquired.

“These are Richards’s ashes,” she said starring at me.

Fight! Fight the tears Alena. Don’t cry, I yelled at myself. I ran out of the garage and into the house, right into the bathroom. The next morning we all got dressed as if we were going to the snow. I asked my mom what we were doing and she told me we were going to spread Richard’s ashes up in the mountains in the snow at Jackson Lake where we all go to have fun.

During the week after baby Richard passed away and before the memorial on the mountain, I had learned that my beloved cat, Blue, had died too. He came down with some disease and made his way back to my bedroom one morning. I had sat with him until the bus came that morning. It slowly took over his body and he finally died while I was at school. During the spreading of baby Richards ashes, I asked my grandmother to say a prayer for Blue. Secretly I liked to think that God took Blue too so that baby Richard had an amazing cat to play with. 


            It was a very hard road back to Normal-ville. It’s been 23 years since my brother Richard left this world and joined the ranks in Heaven and yet I remember those days as if it were yesterday. Many people found it disturbing for my parents to include my sister and me in such an event, but I don’t resent my parents for sharing their heartache with me at such a tender age. I cherish these memories because not many people get to watch the making of an Angel and it taught me that it’s ok to have emotions and to let them out and share your stories with others because in sharing and feeling comes release and happiness.


One thought on “UPDATE: The Making of an Angel

  1. I can’t leave a coment, but I have told you what my thoughts were. I cant belive how much you remebered only being 9 yrs old at the time of all of this. I love you verry much.

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