Lueza always wanted to know "what happened" when her friends from school died suddenly. What happened? People want to know how we knew that she wanted to hear about these stories but it was very clear. She had a very clear way of expressing 'no' and 'yes'. A turn of the head and a loud utterance of 'aye' or a very gentle turn of the head with the eyes a bit down. We could even go through the alphabet. Sound out each letter and eventually we would hit it. She would scream or after she got the 'trach' and couldn't vocalize she would still go whacko and turn her head and show extreme excitement that we had hit it. So there were long periods where we would talk about her 'friend' who had suddenly died. She wanted to know: 'why', 'how', 'when', 'where' and I would tell her the stories over and over again.
She never seemed upset to hear any of it. We didn't understand why she wanted to hear the stories endlessly. Eventually it would stop being an obsession. It drifted off or we would not think of presenting it as an option for discussion. Sometimes a new obsession would take over like being doused in the holy water that a friend's wife had brought from Russia. Holy water and then all the prayers that I knew from childhood and from roles I had played in the theatre.
In her last year, after a long break from death stories she became very agitated one night and in frustration at not being able to figure out what she was wanting to express I went to the recitation of the alphabet. We eventually got to 'R' and a certain vowel sound following it and that was the thing. I had hit it. But I had no idea what 'it' was. It took me another day and the next evening until I realized what 'Ray' meant to her. She wanted to hear about her friend from years ago whose name began with that syllable. After trying all the different why where how words it turned out that she wanted to know 'who told me'. Who told me about this child being near death because this precious child had become ill very quickly and very quickly was on life support near death as the family and friends gathered around at the hospital to say goodbye.
The story for Lueza was simple. I told her that I drove to school on a beautiful May day and that when I pulled into the parking lot one of the teacher's aides was clearly waiting for me. Immediately I knew that something was very wrong. She came to the window of the wheelchair van and told me that this child was going to die that night and the mom, who was my friend and connected to me through a strange coincidence, wanted me to know. This was the story that I told Lu over and over again in 2010. Who told me? Miss Laura told me. And I picked up Lu and took her home and asked our caregiver to stay a bit longer so that I could go into the hospital in San Francisco and join the vigil and say goodbye.
Who told me? My husband called me where I was working 400 miles away and about to load the car to come home. My cell phone buzzed because the ringer was off and he probably paused and made a strange sound and I probably started shouting 'WHAT.....WHAT?????' and then he told me. 'Luezie died'. Just that. She was alone in her room. She was about to get taken to see 2 doctors but she died in her bed. On her futon in front of the giant flat-screen television where she watched her favorite movies.
I remember screaming. And then. Don't call anyone. I don't want her moved. I'll get on a plane.
Lueza would be obsessed with this story. How did it happen? Who told me?
She must have had a massive infection that overwhelmed her body. Sepsis. Something fast and furious swept her away.
Do you see? How can you write this stuff?
Something fast and furious.
I don't know what the fuck happened.
I don't like to use the word 'fuck' in print but I do not have words.
She was swept away by a massive wave.
The doctors said not to bring her to the emergency room because there were too many sick kids and she was so vulnerable.
They knew her well. They loved her. She had been through it all. They just kept saving her.
We all knew that she would have a short life.
Lueza loved life.
I have no idea if she was able to think about any of this.
Did she know how delicate she was?
Did she know that her parents were terrified for 9 years?
She never seemed afraid at the hospital. It was like a big social event for her.
She kept me calm.
So now I'm like Lueza, obsessively asking 'what happened?'