Wednesday, we held our breath, watching the monitor of the ventilator to see Sophie take hers. She didn't. Our girl. Our feisty, feisty girl picked her battle. It wasn't the one we would have chosen for her. She fought to leave this world, to be rid of the body that trapped her so.
They started coming. Slowly at first. Each time a new face entered Sophie's hospital room, a reverent hush would fall, that deep rooted and quiet respect for what was to come. In time, the mood would lighten some and laughter would occasionally ring out. Then, the door would slide open again, giving pause and time for silent reflection.
I tried to be good. I tried my best to share these last and fleeting moments, each visitor taking a turn at holding Sophie one last time, caressing her cheek, kissing tiny dimpled fingers until I finally threw down the mom card. I needed her back in my arms, unimaginable panic rising up in me. From time to time, I'd glance at the hands on the clock above her bed, pleading with them to stop.
Eventually, the guests began to go. Aunt Kelly was the last. The anguish and terror in my heart clearly reflected on her face as she reeled back in her chair, pushing away from us as if there were some way to escape. "No!" she sobbed. Then she too took a turn in the blue hospital rocking chair. Cradling. Loving. Already mourning.
After she left, WM and I gave Sophie one last bath. We gently rubbed and dried and applied lotion to every soft curve and chubby baby wrinkle, memorizing every last bit of her tiny being. Leaning onto her bed, whispered stories carried us well into the wee hours of the morning until exhaustion finally chased us into bed, if only for an hour or so.
We begged it not to, but time marched on.
With the light of day, our grief stricken group gathered, grandmas and grandpas, one uncle and an auntie-to-be, faces stained with tears, choking back sobs. Channing, unaware of what was going on around him, constantly asked for chapstick for 'Baby Sopie', the ever concerned big brother wary of the vent tube protruding from Sophie's mouth. He applied the chapstick and every time he did, he leaned in to kiss her bottom lip. Oh sweet boy, you may not have memories of your baby sister, but she has had a profound impact on the person we see you becoming. The love and compassion emanating from your two-year-old body is humbling to say the very least.
WM says she was kind to us. It happened quickly. The monitors were turned off. The tube was removed. I cradled her weary body in my arms as she gently slipped away. One last time she was passed from embrace to embrace until she finally returned to my arms.
I clung to her limp form, kissing her now tape-free cheeks, whispering words of love and singing loud enough for only Sophie to hear, just one last time to my sweet baby girl, an Irish lullaby.
Sophie Meredith Flynn
July 23, 2010 to February 17, 2011