Sweet April, the frail, the capriciously bright,
Hath passed like the lovely away;
Yet we mourn not her absence, for swift at her flight
Sprang forth, her young sister, the angel of light;
And fair as a sunbeam that dazzles the sight,
Is beautiful, beautiful May.
“Ode to May” by Amelia Welby
May 1, 1999
Around the corner from Nicholas’ hospital room is little Nicky M’s room. Allan rushes out the door and races toward the nursing station. Allan the nurse who makes us laugh when he wears a surgical glove on his head like a rooster’s comb, but now he wears an expression that makes my heart jump inside my chest.
Nicky M’s brother and sisters, his mom and dad are at the Ronald McDonald House having supper. I want to go into his room but I’m afraid. Allan is striding back down the hall with two more nurses, one wipes at her eyes, they don’t look at me. Suddenly I need to be with Nicholas as I realize what has happened.
My son is watching TV in his windowless room. I go to his bed and put my lips on his forehead. I breath deeply, inhaling his scent.
“Nicky has gone to Heaven.” The words tumble out.
“When? Now? Oh Mom!” He sits up confused and looks around and I wonder if he thinks that death has followed me into his room. I’m scared and sad and I’m not eleven years old with cancer.
Soon Charlotte, her husband and four young children go into Nicky’s room and shut the door.
May 2, 1999
This morning the M family is packing up Nicky’s room. I find my courage and approach the doorway. Lauren, the oldest daughter was a little mother to her sick brother and sometimes she would stay the night with him. Her eyes and cheeks are puffy.
Charlotte sees me and gives me a welcoming smile. “He was so tired, Sue. Now he can rest.”
She picks up a stuffed panda bear and asks me to give it to Nicholas from Nicky.
I take Charlotte’s beautiful composure into my son’s room and give him the panda bear. He puts it on the pillow beside his head.
He says, “Nicky is in Heaven running and playing now. But, his Mom and Dad are sure gonna miss him.”
I travel with a group from the Ronald McDonald House to White Rock to attend Nicky M.’s Celebration of Life. A few of the House staff like Ann, Barb and Dave have been to memorials for children and they lead the rest of us who are terrified. I feel I’m going to vomit.
The voices of singing children fill the church. If I ever hear angels sing, they may sound like this. There is a stir when Nicky’s father stands up for the eulogy.
He speaks about a little boy who lived for three years. There are no stories to tell the same as when one has long years of life with milestones reached like education, marriage, children and grandchildren. This father speaks about dreams that die when a child dies. There is so much more to be said, to be done, to be accomplished and it is wrong when a parent buries a child.
But, we need to go on without our Nicky. We need to live our lives with joy as he would want. Because this little angel is watching us, and it would be good for him to say, in his childish voice as he used to when he was here, “I be so proud of you.”