The smell sickened me. It was the smell of plastic and chemicals mingled with blood and tears: typical hospital smell. It smelled just like a funeral home, only not as stale. I wondered if that was coincidence or not.
I walked up the stairs as I had done a thousand times already. A hospital was no place for a pair of giddy tweens to spend their time. However, here I was, visiting my best friend after her chemotherapy in Akron Children’s Hospital for the sixth time in four months.
I went into her room and the same smile greeted me as usual. However, this time, the face around the smile was different. She had what the doctors called a “moon face” from all the drugs she was taking: her face was so swollen it looked like a moon. Whenever she moved her cheeks, she could lift her glasses off her eyes. Her thick, blonde hair that had curled down to her shoulders was now completely gone and there was an Ohio State football cap in its place. Her normally starry blue eyes now lost their sparkle and only despair remained in them. Those eyes seemed to be reaching out to world, saying, “Please love me, that is all I need.” The once normal—looking eighth grader now looked incredibly white, as if death was sitting on the hospital bed next to her.
I had always believed that people get what they deserve, but how then could Tiffany have leukemia? She was sweeter, smarter, and stronger than anyone else I knew. She was the kind of person who would neglect her own problems, to help someone else. So why did she have cancer?
I went to her bed and hugged her. She was the eternal optimist. No matter how bad things got, she held out hope. I gave her the usual box of candy and bunch of flowers along with her pile of homework. She was a skeleton—no more than a stick with a cotton hospital nightie draped on it.
Since she had gotten sick, I had often asked myself how God would let an innocent girl get such a horrible disease. No matter how I tried to justify it, I could not. The only phrase that seemed to come to mind was the good die young. That would not do in any case, and it especially would not do for me.
I hated that she had to go through this and I hated that I had to be the strong one and not break down. At times, I felt like all this was too much to carry, but I knew that if I broke down she would too and I could not let that happen. I sat down next to her bed and we started to say our usual prayers.
I looked at the pile of homework, which was a sad gift in my opinion. I always thought that gifts were supposed to make people feel better, but in my experience homework did not make people feel better, it made them more stressed and stress was the last thing she needed. At the same time, I realized this homework was a blessing to her. She desperately clung to any semblance of normality, which the homework provided for her. I felt horrible that her only outlets for normality were her family, the few friends she had retained since she had gotten sick, and the pile of work sitting in front of her. I looked at the work and then at her, feeling humbled by her situation and her determination to get well again.
We began to talk about school, family, and boys. All the things tweens normally talk about. I felt like I was starting to babble trying to steer the conversation away from the one subject that completely preoccupied both her and me.
I was so scared that something was not going the way it should. I was always so worried about how she was doing, but I never wanted to ask for fear of hearing the worst. I was terrified the next time I asked her how she was, she would tell me she would become a creature of the living dead. I did not want to have a corpse for a best friend.
Finally, my mouth ran away from my mind, as it often does: I asked her how she was. She just stared at me as if stunned by my bluntness. Then slowly she smiled at me and told me the doctors thought this was going to be the last round: she was going to be okay.
I sat there stunned in silence. Then as if someone had dumped a bottle of water on my face, my cheeks became soaked with tears. I cried as I had not cried in months. I looked at her and she had tears in her eyes as well. I hugged her and we cried together.
I felt better than I had in months. It seemed six months of pent up emotion was now finally coming out.
In the midst of this death and decay, somehow, lamb’s blood had managed to find its way onto her door, so the shadow would pass her. I stared at her and already she looked different to me. She was still white, but it was not the paleness of death any longer. Now it was the whiteness and freshness of a new beginning.
Kristine Philips is a sophomore from Ashland, Ohio, majoring in Journalism and Political Science.