Casey Mulligan Walsh is an upstate New York writer whose work has appeared in The New York Times, Split Lip, HuffPost, Next Avenue, The Manifest-Station, Barren Magazine, BrevityBlog, and Modern Loss, among others. She writes about life at the intersection of grief and joy and embracing the in-between. Her work also appears at thefhfoundation.org, an organization that raises awareness for the genetic cardiac disorder that has affected her family across generations, and in a monthly patient perspective blog for WebMD. She is at work on a memoir. Find Casey at www.caseymulliganwalsh.com, or on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or LinkedIn.
You can come in now, they say, holding open the door between the waiting room and the inner sanctum of the ER, and I stand, smoothing my wispy summer dress and unsticking my bare legs from the vinyl chair where I’ve waited for a half hour that’s seemed like days, still praying, knowing yet not knowing, listening to the whirr of the helicopter blades on the pad on the other side of the window, never realizing it was there for my son, should he make it, but he didn’t make it, that’s what the doctor said when she came to tell me moments ago, sadness in her eyes, her shoulders stooped like someone had given her a thousand-ton weight to pass on to me, and everything got quiet in my head, as if snow had fallen all around me and nothing, not the hugest boulder dropped from the highest height, could ever make a sound that would reach me in there, and my dear friend follows me through that door, still a mama bear like always—no putting anything in my way on her watch—and the nurses, somber and anxious, steer me to the first room on the right, the one where I spent a long Sunday twelve years ago with my one-year-old daughter who’d burned her hand on a heater in a freak October snowstorm—she left bandaged and groggy yet she’d be fine, the worst is over, I thought then—but now my son, always so full of life, lies on a gurney in the center of the room, still, eyes closed but mouth open, like he’s had a bad day and needs to sleep it off, that’s all, the air is heavy and charged and smells of antiseptic, and the medical staff hover behind me, Hold her elbow, she’ll faint one man says, and, annoyed, I ask them to leave, they can’t understand, how could they, that I’ve known this would be the end of the story, the one I’ve dreaded, the only one that’s ever made sense, with life spinning wild until it blew us all apart and no end in sight, and I speak to my son in my mind, my first baby, the one who made us a family, who brought me back to family after all of mine had died, oh how his antics delighted us back then, no hint of the danger to come, I tell him he can rest now, that I understand, my words senseless yet swollen with meaning, and a breeze caresses my cheek in what is surely a hug from beyond, then it’s gone—his spirit knew better than to hang around in this room rank with death and decay, that’s how it feels—See you later, Mom, I hear him say, on the tops of the trees, that’s where I’ll be, and by God, he is there, decades later, still my shining star, still shouting, Look at me, Mom, he still can’t sit still, my boy, he’s with me. Still.