I started a paper chain out of a rainbow of colored construction paper that evening and wrote the words that were echoing within me all day, “Day minus-10: Let the healing begin.” The idea was to add a slip of paper each day to mark the time Ryan spent in the hospital. We didn’t know how many days it would be, but I wanted a visual reminder of this season.
Transplant • 2017
As marrow ran into Ryan’s body, Titus played “Taunet Nelel,” a song by Kalenjin artist Emmy Kosgei. The translated lyrics say, “It’s a new beginning. There’s new thinking—look at it! God is saying, ‘I am doing a new thing. Don’t look back.’”
One hour and fifteen minutes after the transplant began, it was finished. The clock stopped, and now came the waiting and watching, hoping Sharon’s marrow would find its home in her brother.
“Juli, you need to continue with your paper chain,”
my mom lovingly prompted me as we sat next to the window in Ryan’s room. “Keep adding slips of paper. Ryan isn’t dead yet. His story isn’t finished.”
Sitting in the PICU, I felt more clumsy than surefooted, but I also wondered if perhaps courage was simply about showing up when you were afraid.
Two months after Ryan returned home, it was time to begin the process again for Geoffrey.
It was too soon. Too scary. Too much.
But we loaded up the car anyway, and Mel drove as I sat in between Titus and Geoffrey in the backseat.
Titus held my hand as I leaned my head against Geoffrey’s car seat. We made our way back to UCLA.
After all, this was Geoffrey’s greatest chance at life.
A little boy needed me more than ever before, not to be Mama Ella but simply to become Mama. This seemingly subtle shift was monumental in our evolving relationship and within my identity.
He needed my lap to hold him. My voice to tell him it was going to be okay, even if I was not convinced. My encouragement to eat a few bites, to take his medicine. My hands to hold the plastic bucket when the choking wouldn’t stop. He needed me to be present.