That is when Grandma Kanno stepped in. She left my mom and dad’s home and moved in with Michelle and me. She spent a week in the hospital so she could learn how to care for Michelle’s medical needs. During Grandma’s down time, she made Japanese cranes she strung them and on the bottom was a piece of paper, she wrote in Japanese a special word for each child.
She went to each baby’s crib in Michelle’s ward and hung a crane from the pole that held their I.V’s. One of the babies in the ward was leaving and the nurse made sure to carry with her grandma’s Crane. I watched as one mom asked Grandma Kanno what the Japanese characters meant. I didn’t hear the answer but saw the tears in her eyes as she held grandma’s hand thanking her for her kindness. I realized then that a simple act like hanging a paper crane from a babies crib was all it took to bring a bit of happiness to the hearts of the broken-hearted and that was Grandma’s magic.
I met and got to know a lot of the moms in the hospital and I noticed that we all had that same expression on our faces. It was one of pain/courage and patience/love. All of us had our breaking points. Some of us would sit alone in a dark corner. Others would find a quiet place in the hospital so that our children couldn’t see our pain. And when we were done, that same expression went right back on our faces. I witnessed a multitude of heartbreaking life altering situations. Two of them I will never forget. As I mentioned earlier, Michelle had gotten a fever and I had to bring her to Children’s, they couldn’t figure out what was wrong with her so they began the testing. Meningitis—painful and too much to watch. As I sat outside listening to my baby cry, I walked down the hall. I glanced into one of the rooms, the first thing I saw was a tin bowl with blood in it. I looked down and saw a father leaning against the wall with his head in his hands crying softly saying to himself, “I am not ready to say goodbye.” I walked away hurting for him but unable to say or do anything except feel his pain. I went into a waiting room and saw the sick little boy with his mom; they sat both frightened yet held one another. So much emotion—so much love.
Michelle was in and out of Children’s; it had become home for the both of us. I was a bit scared of the children because I knew that a lot of them were terminal, so to look in their eyes … it was hard. I met one little girl and she had such an inquisitive look in her eyes. She wanted so badly to jump out of her broken body and live. I talked to her and held her hand. She was so tiny, maybe a year old or so; her mom was going through a rough period, her husband had passed away when she was pregnant and she had other children. She didn’t have any money … so she drank. When she had her baby, she was born with all of that alcohol she had consumed. The guilt she must have been feeling. She would come to the hospital with all the kids and stayed at the McDonald home on the weekends. She said that she had to take a bus to get there; she looked so tired. I would visit her daughter everyday and when I went to see her, her eyes would light up. And it did take its toll on me, visiting the other kids and caring for my daughter. I was, to say the least, exhausted.
The little girl was getting worse and she had to go into her own room. I had to wash and put on a gown and mask. At the time, I didn’t want to go through all of that. I just assumed that she would be there the following day when I had the time and energy to spend quality time with her. The next day I went to her room and I thought they moved her. I went to the nurse and she told me that she had died during the night. This is one of my few regrets.
Michelle was home from the hospital for ten days. She was so vibrant and alive. Grandma would sing Japanese songs to her while giving her physical therapy and she would sing along. My father came by with some groceries one day; he went to her and lay next to her. I did not know it at the time and I don’t think he knew either but in his own way, I believe he was saying goodbye to his granddaughter.
Looking back on the eve of Michelle’s passing, there was a something in her eyes—a depth I had never seen before. It’s a funny thing, love; a single glance can articulate a thousand words. I moved her crib next to my bed so I could be close in case she had a seizure or the machine that tube fed her went off. She watched as I fell asleep first which was unusual and I said goodnight, it was 1:07 a.m.
My sweet Obachan took the 6:00 a.m. shift; she would wake and change the bag that fed Michelle throughout the night. On this morning, she lay sleeping. I opened my eyes to a sunny November day. I looked into the crib; she had taken her blanket off. I got up and put them over her.
I touched her toes and they were cold. I gently caressed her face and felt only a body…. When Dr Cristofell spoke with David and me, she asked us if we wanted to resuscitate Michelle if she went into cardiac arrest. We both agreed … she was too weak. She gave us a sheet of paper telling the doctors not to resuscitate.
I did not use that paper and asked the doctors to try.