View Full Version : The Fifth Floor Epilogue
12-25-2010, 01:09 PM
12-25-2010, 01:26 PM
AAAAAHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WHY CAN'T I POST ANYTHING?????????
12-26-2010, 12:39 AM
Well, here I am…the last day of this year, counting down the final hours and minutes until the clock strikes midnight and a new year begins. It has been a rather long and busy day and to be perfectly honest, I’m quite bushed, but even though I’m tired, I still want to stay up long enough for 1984 to be ushered in. 1983 has been a monumental and life-changing year for myself and for all my loved ones, but still, I must say that I am not sorry to see it go. I am looking ahead with hope to this next year that lies ahead, and with prayers in my heart for God to continue to grant me more and more wisdom and heavenly guidance so that I may always make the choices in my life that He would have me to make, and to live and act and talk and relate to others around me in the ways in which He would have me to do so. I know that there is no way on earth that my girls and my children and I could have come through this past year without His love and guidance and miracles, and I do sincerely hope and pray and believe that He will continue to watch over us and grant us these things in the upcoming year and all our years ahead. And while it certainly goes without saying that 1983 has truly been a hellish year for almost every soul I know and love, and for myself, and that it is hardly a year I would ever want to repeat, I must also admit that even with the agonizing pain and struggles, getting through it all with my family to get to where we all are in our lives today has been well worth it. I do believe that going through the things we all went through together to get to where we all are now has permanently and completely changed us for the better and has made us all better and stronger people than we ever thought possible before. Making the recent decision to start writing about everything we’ve all gone through this year has so far proven to be a very good one, the way that recalling all these events and writing them down on paper always seems to remind me of the ways in which we’ve all grown and changed.
Of course, nothing has changed me more deeply and profoundly than the experiences of coming within inches of losing my dear Blair. And nothing has brought my heart more joy than the day I finally got to bring Blair home from the hospital and having her strong and healthy once again. Due to the risks of the immunosuppressant drugs she’ll have to be on for the rest of her life, there will always be at least some concern for the state of her health, but Blair and I both have decided that we’re not going to borrow trouble from the future. Ever since I was able to bring her home from the hospital in late July, we both have agreed that we’re going to simply take each day as it comes. We’ve been doing this one day at a time since July and we’re still doing it one day at a time today, and with the gift of every passing day I get to be blessed with my little girl’s sweet presence in my life, I continue to thank God with all my heart, and I know that I am not the only parent in our Eastland family who has much to be grateful to God for where her child’s health is concerned.
It was not until several weeks after Blair was discharged from the hospital that we all learned of Natalie’s own personal struggles with health issues, and in fact, we only learned of Natalie’s dilemma completely by accident. She had confided in her parents and in her boyfriend and in Jo about her problems, but in nobody else, not even Tootie. I think her reason for wanting to keep her own health issues a secret from the rest of us largely came from the fact that we had already gone through an awful lot with Blair’s problems, and of course, Tootie had more thanenough personal pain and problems on her own plate to deal with as well. But even though we all pretty much knew that Natalie was thinking of us when she chose not to tell us about all she’d been going through, it still hurt our hearts that we hadn’t been able to know about it and be there for her to support her and help her through it earlier. It did hurt our hearts quite a lot to know that had her boyfriend’s younger brother (who’s almost as bad of a gossip at Bates as Tootie is at Eastland) was the person we had to learn about all of this from by accident when he blurted it out in conversation with Ben and Natalie one day, not knowing that the girls and I had just entered the room and were standing behind him, hearing every word he was saying. Nevertheless, I must confess that even though the way we learned about everything did hurt and thinking about Natalie facing it all without our love and support hurt even more, I as a fellow parent was deeply moved and impressed by what I personally witnessed from Natalie’s parents and from her grandmother. I gained so much respect for Dr. and Mrs. Green when I learned of the incredible links they both went to so that Natalie might have the hope to be genetically tested and get the answers she obviously badly needed and be able to have some peace of mind. I was especially touched and impressed when I learned that the doctor Natalie’s father had had to go through in order to have it arranged for Natalie to be approved for this special test in geneticresearch was actually the very same doctor he’d had an affair with the year before, and that Mrs. Green not only allowed her husband to turn to her for help for Natalie, but in fact even insisted on it. Since she was the only geneticist who could have the mere hope of pulling the right strings in genetic research to get Natalie approved for the test, Dr. Green really had no choice but to go to her and ask for her help, and Mrs. Green couldn’t have been more understanding and supportive. When I asked her how she felt about doing this, she did admit it to me that having her husband associating with his former mistress again did make her feel uncomfortable, but then she said that Natalie’s physical and emotional health and peace of mind were more important to her than her own feelings. I had always gotten along very well with Evie in the past and I had always thought highly of her before, but hearing her say that to me made my admiration for her as a fellow mother skyrocket. Evie refused to say anything about it to Natalie and of course, I assured her I would keep everything she told me just between the two of us.
It was not long after I had that conversation with Natalie’s mother that Natalie officially made the decision to go through with the test, and at the end of September, September 29 to be more precise, the Greens learned the test results, and the girls and I thanked God and let out a huge sigh of relief, right along with Natalie and her parents and her grandmother, when we all learned that Natalie did not inherit the Huntington’s chorea gene. It took an enormous weight off Natalie’s shoulders, quite obviously, and while neither Natalie nor the rest of us have come through this past year the same individuals we were before, even though we all will honestly never be the same again, in Nat’s case, getting the good results really did help her to mostly get back to her normal, happy, and comical self. I personally was very happy to see it because she’d been dealing with so much anxiety for so long and especially after we learned about all she had been going through, we knew that it had been taking quite a toll on her for a long time, and it felt so good to see Natalie having that weight lifted off her shoulders and at least for the most part, going back to being Natalie again.
And in addition to getting such a heavy weight lifted from her shoulders, everything that the Greens had gone through in the midst of all this actually gave the Greens some blessings in disguise. For one thing, it was incredibly obvious to the girls and me that Natalie and her parents and her grandmother were closer as a family than they’d ever been before. It had even served as a catalyst to help Dr. and Mrs. Green start to really communicate with each other again and clear up years of hurt and anger and misunderstandings, and had actually made their marriage far stronger than it had ever been. And having to turn to some of Natalie’s biological family members for help also served to give Natalie another grandmother. Even though Natalie’sbiological mother, Ellen Manheim, had been told enough information by Bobby Marcy about his parents for her to help the Greens track Pearl Marcy down, she had never met Bobby’s mother and had never told her about Natalie. It was only after she spoke with the Greens about Natalie’s situation that she even knew she had a grandchild, and shortly after Natalie got the good test results, a close family friend called the Greens and asked about Natalie coming to visit her biological grandmother. He had known Mrs. Marcy for many years, and since the deaths of her husband and her son, she had been suffering from severe and even debilitating depression for many years, and had even attempted suicide several times, and he hoped that meeting the granddaughter she never knew she had and spending some time with her would help lift her spirits. Dr. and Mrs. Green talked to Natalie about it, and of course, she was more than happy to fly out to Utah where Mrs. Marcy lived and spend a weekend with her. Natalie’s mother flew out with her to Utah one weekend, and as it turned out, the idea was exactly what the doctor prescribed. I wasn’t there, of course, but from what all Natalie and her mother have told me about their first meeting, it was quite clear that it was an extremely heartwarming experience. And getting a granddaughter she never knew she had had such a good impact on her that while meeting Natalie didn’t totally cure her depression at first, it really helped her to start functioning in life again.
Shortly after their first meeting, Mrs. Marcy and Bill Jacobs, her old family friend, came to Peekskill and stayed in a hotel nearby to spend a week with Natalie, giving us all the chance to meet Natalie’s new grandmother, and when we did all meet her for the first time, we were really touched by her kind, quiet, and very gentle nature. I know that for me, as a mother, the thing about our first meeting her that touched me the most was her reaction to one of Natalie’s facial expressions. We all know that when Natalie’s thinking about getting into any kind of mischief, she gets this certain look on her face. And when we were talking about all the pranks and practical jokes Natalie had pulled at Eastland in the past, she got that same expression on her face that we knew all too well and had always taken for granted in the past. But when Natalie’s grandmother saw it, she broke down and cried and even sobbed for the longest time, and in fact she was crying so hard, we were very worried about her for a couple of minutes and we were even a little afraid that she was somehow becoming physically ill. When she was able to stop crying and catch her breath long enough to talk, she explained that her son used to get that exact same look on his face that she had just seen on Natalie’s face, back when he was a really young boy whenever he was up to any kind of mischief, before her husband started developing Huntington’s chorea. After that, she hugged Natalie and held onto her for the longest time, still crying, and we were all crying right along with her. It was such a happy ending to a very long, hard, and previously heartbreaking story, and the end of this story helped Mrs. Marcy to really start to let go of a lot of the pain of the deaths of her husband and her son and to begin a brand new story in her life. Not long after her visit in Peekskill, she decided she needed to leave her old house and its memories behind in Utah and start anew here so she could be closer to her new grandchild. And Mr. Jacobs, who had been in love with Mrs. Marcy for several years, was finally able to convince her to accept his marriage proposal. In years’ past, she had always said no because of her nearly debilitating depression, not thinking that she could really function or be there for him in a marriage, but obviously, thanks to a good, old-fashioned miracle from the Almighty, what she had considered impossible in the past was now entirely possible.
But even though Tootie and her siblings and their parents had been raised as believers, sadly, Mr. and Mrs. Ramsey could not be persuaded by Tootie or anyone to trust God enough to let Him come into their situation, as Natalie’s new grandmother and her fiancé did, and turn what they thought to be impossible into something that was possible for them to do with His help. Tootie had hoped that her parents would change their minds as time went by, but in the end, that wasn’t the case.
When Dr. and Mrs. Green decided they wanted to adopt another child, Natalie told them about what was going on with Mr. and Mrs. Ramsey and their decision to give their unborn baby up for adoption at birth, and of course, about the heartache it was causing Tootie. Tootie also told her parents about the Greens wanting to adopt again, and both they and the Greens thought their daughters’ idea was wonderful. Even though there were some significant hurdles to overcome due to the Greens being in middle age and the difficulties involved with interracial adoptions, the connections that both the Ramseys had as lawyers and Dr. Green also had with several of his wealthier patients really allowed them to quickly cut through all the layers of red tape and start getting the adoption finalized. The reason I remember the date of Natalie’s good test results so well is because the next day, about a couple of weeks before her due date, on September 30, Mrs. Ramsey gave birth to an eight pound, nine ounce, beautiful and healthy baby boy whom the Greens named Lincoln Richard. When he was born at around eleven o’clock that night, naturally, the ecstatic, proud new parents and older sisters went crazy over him. To Dr. and Mrs. Green and Natalie and Tootie, and Mona who was also there, it was one of the most beautiful moments of their entire lives.
But yet, my heart did go out to Tootie, because although she knew she no longer had to worry about not being able to see her baby brother, her having to watch her own parents give him up was understandably hard. When I talked to Tootie about it, I really admired her for the mature and dignified way she was handling it inside. Tootie told me that while she was with her parents at home during the summer, she realized why they were giving the baby up for adoption. She told me that the reason why they were doing it was because they were relentless perfectionists, and while being such driven perfectionists did cause them to excel in their law careers, it cost them everything else in their lives because they simply could not bring themselves to leave their perfectionist mentality of the workplace behind when they came home for the day. They always expected complete perfection of themselves in every area of their lives, including parenting, and realizing that they had played the role that they did in Tootie’s accident shook them up so badly they couldn’t imagine forgiving themselves for their mistakes as parents, much less trying to do a better job in raising another child. Tootie confessed to me that despite the fact that she had felt so much anger against her parents at first, after spending the summer with them and figuring out why they were doing this, more than anything, she was overwhelmed with pity for them. Like a lot of upper-class Eastland students, Tootie has almost never spent any summer breaks at home with her parents. She almost always went to camp for her summer vacation, but this year, she actually did spend the summer at home with her parents, and spending more than mere days or a week or two at a time with her mother and father really gave her a new perspective about them. It wasn’t until then that Tootie truly realized that for her parents, their prestigious and high-paying law careers were not only careers or jobs or livelihoods to them. They weren’t just sources of great and stable income for themselves and their children. This past summer Tootie spent at home with her parents helped her to really understand that for them, their law careers and their ceaseless but futile pursuit of perfection and their undying competitiveness, constantly trying to outdo every human being they ever saw, was in fact their very lives. And Tootie told me that once she really saw that their lives for the most part were only about trying to prove to themselves and the world that they were better than others, what incredibly lonely and empty lives they were both leading without even realizing it, and that leading such lives was now even costing them their youngest child, she in fact was able to feel great sympathy and compassion for them. Even my heart began to ache for them when Tootie said to me in our conversation that while she would always have feelings of love for them in her heart because they were her parents (at least in a manner of speaking), in the end, she would actually feel more sympathy for them than anything else. And while it was such a sad and sorry thing for a fine young lady like Tootie to have to honestly admit about her own parents, at the same time, it did make the burden of her troublesome relationships with them a lot easier to bear, thanks to her feelings of sympathy and compassion diffusing her previous feelings of furious anger and even borderline hatred towards them.
Not long after Blair came home from the hospital in July, in some ways, I found myself struggling with some furious anger of my own, because it was then that I finally found out about my son eloping with Jo. I was completely incensed at Alex for what he had done, and I was not in support of their elopement at all. Shortly after Alex told me what he’d done, I met with Mr. and Mrs. Polniaczeck, both of whom already knew all about it. I automatically assumed that Jo’s parents were every bit as outraged at my thirty-year-old son for eloping with their eighteen-year-old daughter as I was, but I was quite shocked to learn how wrong that assumption really was. After they’d spent some time with Alex and had gotten to know him, they both actually couldn’t stop complimenting me on how well I’d raised him. When I asked them why they weren’t even the least little bit concerned about their teenage daughter, who was just barely out of high school, being married to a man Alex’s age, they told me that through this year, they’ve realized that Jo was a lot wiser than they were and that they not only respected Jo’s judgment, but even considered her judgment better than their own. They then told me of their plans for a reconciliation between them and how Jo had warned them about jumping into things too fast and that they should seek counseling to help their marriage get off to the best start possible, and how greatly that advice has helped them. They also told me how highly they thought of Alex, of the strength and courage he showed in his life everyday as a firefighter, and how much they admired his big heart and humor and warmth. What touched me more than anything, though, was when they told me that I’d always been a very positive influence on Jo and the fact that the man Jo chose for husband was my son made them respect her judgment all the more.
12-26-2010, 12:50 AM
Shortly after my meeting with Jo’s parents, my feathers were clearly pretty ruffled for a while. It wasn’t long until Raymond came around for a visit and started discussing all of this with me about Alex, and like Jo’s parents, he too shocked me by how supportive he actually was about this. I felt so angry and frustrated with everyone, thinking that of them all, I was the only person sensible enough to understand that Jo didn’t need to be making such an enormous commitment in her life right now. More than anything, as a woman who similarly eloped at age seventeen, making a life-changing decision totally on the spur of the moment that caused me an awful lot of pain later on in my life, I desperately did not want to see a young girl as dear to me as Jo doing the same thing. I was so worried about Jo getting hurt the way I’d been, and I really did believe that any reasonable adult would feel the same way, but after talking to Raymond and Mr. and Mrs. Polniaczeck, it was obvious that the general consensus was that I was in the wrong. I just couldn’t understand it.
So since I was so perplexed and really in need of some wisdom, I sought out the wisest, most mature adult I knew – my precious, sweet, and remarkable only daughter. Once I poured my heart out to her about everything, I asked her for her input. Even though Jo’s parents and my older son were saying I was wrong, I still wasn’t entirely convinced. But when someone as wise as Blair tells you you’re wrong, ninety-nine point nine percent of the time, you are definitely wrong. She did understand where I was coming from at the time, but she also helped me to understand that I really had been too quick to jump to the wrong conclusions about both Alex and Jo, and that I had in fact been seriously selling them both short. She reminded me of the facts about Alex that I, myself already knew, that he had been working extremely hard since he decided to change careers, both with his schooling and his two jobs, and she also reminded me of the fact that Alex was literally saving people’s lives every single day. When she asked me, “How many lives did your ex-husband ever save?” I knew she was right, that I really was being far too hasty to want to immediately write Alex off as being exactly like his father.
But even though I knew Blair was right and that I was losing the debate, I still stubbornly protested and said that Jo was too young and impressionable to make such a huge commitment in her life right now and that she was too naïve and inexperienced in the ways of the real world to be able to handle being married, and I thought I might have somewhat of a chance of winning the argument by reminding Blair of the time when Jo almost eloped with Eddie. Not so. In the wisdom and brilliance of my little girl, that argument in our little debate didn’t stand up for two seconds. Blair did acknowledge that a few years ago when Jo and Eddie almost eloped with each other, Jo was obviously very emotionally vulnerable and didn’t always make the best of decisions because of her youth and inexperience in the world, but then Blair also reminded me of the fact that that had happened years ago and that Jo was certainly not the same person today that she was when she first drove in on her motorcycle, that since that time, Jo had done a whole lot of maturing and growing up, and of course I couldn’t deny that. But then I stubbornly said to Blair, “She has done a lot of maturing since she first came here and I know she has, but that doesn’t change the fact that she’s still only a teenager, Blair, and no teenager has enough wisdom and maturity to handle something as serious as marriage, not in the real world. Real life is never what kids see on TV or read in romance novels like so many young people think. Jo’s a very special and smart young lady, but she’s still a teenager and I think she’s simply too young to really understand what it is that she’s getting into.”
In that moment, Blair gave a slight chuckle.
“What?” I asked.
“Mother, when you came to me to ask for my input about this, you told me that you needed to be able to share your perspective with a fellow adult.”
I knew right then and there that I was just about to get obliterated in our little debate, because Blair only addresses me as “Mother” instead of “Mama” or “Edna” either when she’s angry with me for some reason or when we’re having debates like these and she’s getting ready to go in for the kill.
“Right,” I said, anxiously awaiting her next strategic play in our little intellectual game.
“How can you stand there and say on one hand that absolutely no teenager has the maturity it takes to understand marriage, but yet on the other hand, come to me as someone you consider to be a ‘fellow adult’ to get my opinion and advice about this situation, when I, too, am also a teenager?”
And what that brilliant statement, Blair officially annihilated me and I knew it, and I instantly started chuckling as Blair had and raising my hand in defeat knowing that the win had just gone to her, game, set, match.
And frankly, I’m so glad because now I finally do see what everyone else was trying to tell me, that I was so wrong to want to immediately dismiss Alex and Jo off as being too immature to really know what they were doing. The vast majority of teens are not ready for marriage, but I finally realized that that didn’t give me the right to automatically assume that Jo wasn’t. And where Alex was concerned, I realized that so much of my problem was simply that I didn’t want to accept the fact that Alex, who had been my youngest child for many years, had actually grown up, not only physically but spiritually and mentally. I also wanted to write off his change in career as impulsiveness that his father had always displayed in his life, because I didn’t want to believe that Alex was as serious about being a firefighter as he was claiming and that he would always be working in a career in which his physical safety and very life were always being put on the line. And while I am proud of my son beyond what words can describe, I do admit that this has not been an easy thing for me to accept. Now I remember to pray for Alex and his fellow firefighters constantly. Now, I really do wish that Alex would start behaving like his father and change his career again, but I know my son. I know in my heart of hearts that he won’t, that this is something that he genuinely feels he must do with his life. And even though I do thoroughly hate it and worry about his safety constantly, as Jo does also, I must respect his feelings and decision and as hard as it is for me, I do support him with all my heart. I also understand and support his marriage to Jo with all my heart, and I do know that there could not possibly be a woman on this earth better suited for Alex than Jo, and vice versa. They are a very endearing, lively and fun-loving couple, and their differing characteristics balance each other out so perfectly. Where Jo is more serious-minded most of the time, Alex’s more playful nature helps Jo to really stop and smell the roses and enjoy life more when the tough cares of this world are getting her down. And when Alex’s more playful nature starts to get in the way of handling his own responsibilities, it certainly doesn’t take him long to learn his lesson from Jo! She keeps him well-grounded, preventing his sometimes more careless and impulsive ways from getting out of hand, which is something I am eternally grateful to Jo for, not to mention her heroic rescue of Alex when he had gotten wounded. For these reasons and many more, I will forever stand in Jo’s debt.
After Jo’s parents got remarried in mid-August (shortly after we had all our issues with the elopement resolved), for the next couple of months, life really seemed to return to normal for us, at least in a manner of speaking, with the exceptions of Natalie’s test results and the birth and the Greens’ adoption of Lincoln, of course. Natalie began her junior year at Eastland and Tootie started her sophomore year, and Jo and Alex moved into a small apartment about halfway between Langley College and Eastland, making it possible for Jo to attend her classes and for her and Alex still see us regularly, and having them both close-by means everything to me.
Dr. and Mrs. Green also decided to move to Peekskill because after everything that had happened, they really wanted Natalie to be living at home with them again, and since they didn’t want to take her out of Eastland, they decided to move to Peekskill so that Natalie could be with them at home every day but would still also be able to see her friends every day as well. They found a lovely two-story house in downtown Peekskill that they bought, and we all pitched in and helped them shop for new furniture and decorate their new house, and it was more fun for all of us than we’d had in ages. And what made their move here even sweeter for us was their newest addition to the family. Lincoln is the most incredible ray of sunshine for all the girls and me, and what means the most to me is the way that Natalie and Tootie are not only sharing him between the two of them as sisters, but also with Jo and especially Blair. Having Mattie as a little brother has always been a source of healing for Blair, but now having not one but two little brothers with the addition of Lincoln to the family has given Blair such great joy, and I cannot begin to thank Natalie and Tootie enough for sharing their new baby brother with Blair the way they have.
As for Blair, when she came home from the hospital in July, I tried to convince her to take the next semester off to rest and recuperate and relax, and to wait until the spring semester to start her freshman year at Langley, but I wasn’t able to. Blair teased me pretty relentlessly about being too overprotective, but as any true parent knows, there is no such thing as a parent being too overprotective, especially when you’re the parent of a child who’s struggled with life-threatening injuries and illnesses like Blair has this year. But since I was so persistent, Blair did agree to just be a part-time student and keep her workload down to only a couple of correspondence courses, and her agreeing to do that really put my mind at ease, because I wanted very much so to be able to keep a close eye on her and make sure she was taking good care of herself. And I won’t lie. I badly wanted to keep her close so I could enjoy her day-to-day presence as much as possible and more than anything, so that I personally could have the joy of caring for her for as long as possible until she did leave to go to college. Blair never let up on teasing me about “coddling” her, but she can call it what she wants. Coddling is not what I was doing. Letting my son live on my paycheck until age twenty-eight is coddling. Keeping my eye on Blair, making certain she didn’t overdo things and push her body too hard again and that she was keeping up with her different medications and getting enough rest and relaxation to truly be able to recover from all the medical hell she’s endured is doing my job and being there for my child, as every parent is supposed to do.
12-26-2010, 12:52 AM
And when tragedy struck unexpectedly the day after Thanksgiving, doing my job and being there for Blair was more important than ever. The day before, of course, we’d all totally stuffed ourselves with our Thanksgiving turkeys and dressing and cranberry sauce and pumpkin pies and all kinds of other dishes, so Alex and Dr. and Mrs. Green and the girls and I were all lounging around with our overly-full stomachs that day. We were all going about our lives as usual when Blair received a phone call from one of the nuns at St. Mary’s that utterly devastated us both. She learned in that phone call that Todd’s and Scott’s biological mother had gone into a drunken fit of rage after drinking and getting high the night before, and that during that fit of rage, she shot Todd and Scott at point-blank range and killed them both.
To say that Blair was unbelievably remarkable during this time doesn’t even begin to describe it. It took every ounce of emotional strength I had in me to keep myself from breaking down and crying, I was so in awe of her. She was so dignified and courageous through the entire thing, and she never thought of herself even though she was obviously in great and terrible pain. She only thought of all her other friends who were also hurt as badly as she was by this loss. When she first learned what happened, she didn’t even think about seeking comfort for herself. She didn’t even think about looking for a shoulder to cry on or someone to embrace her and hold her when she first got the news. We were all in the kitchen with her when she took the call, and we all overheard her half of the conversation. While we didn’t know yet exactly what had happened, we did know that somebody had clearly just died. When Blair hung up the phone, she didn’t even take a moment to tell us what happened. She just took the phone book out of one of the kitchen drawers and started looking up the number of the nicest funeral home that was closest to where Todd and Scott lived. We all actually had to ask her to explain to us what she’d just heard on the other end of the line. It was only then that she told us of their murders and explained to us that because Todd and Scott didn’t have any family members who could afford to give them a funeral and a proper burial, she had to start quickly making the arrangements for their bodies to be sent to a funeral home and that if she waited too long, their bodies would be cremated, and obviously she didn’t want that to happen. She wanted to make sure they had a decent funeral and burial, and when she got finished telling us that, we all practically lost it. Although I was fighting so hard not to cry, I didn’t make it. I kept my composure for the most part for Blair’s sake, but a couple of tears did come to my eyes. Dr. Green immediately offered to call the morgue for Blair so that nothing would be done with the bodies at the moment, and at first she refused. She told him that she appreciated the offer but that she knew he came to campus that day to enjoy the rest of the holiday weekend with our Eastland family, not to plan a funeral. Well, we all pitched a fit over that when she said it, all of us trying to convince her to let us help her, and briefly, Blair behaved as stubborn as her mother. She kept trying to say to us that Todd and Scott were family to her and that because it was her family, it was her responsibility to take care of everything. Then she said that she had to get the situation with their bodies at the morgue taken care of as quickly as possible because she also had to get to St. Mary’s as quickly as possible to be with the rest of the family there and Becky especially.
But when it comes to stubbornness, I think my sweet little daughter finally learned that day that mothers are always more stubborn than children are, especially when it comes to doing what’s best for them. I insisted that Blair allow us to pitch in and help her, and to her credit she did put up a good fight, but this was a fight I wasn’t about to let her win. She had carried far too many burdens on her own throughout her life already. She wasn’t about to do this alone, and certainly not in my presence. Thankfully, I was able to talk her into accepting Dr. Green’s help fairly quickly, and once I convinced her to let him handle the situation with the morgue, I took her out of the kitchen and into the lounge and I made her stop running around long enough to really sit down and catch her breath.
Over the next couple of days, I continued to watch Blair in amazement as she pushed through all her pain, so diligently trying to care for all her grieving friends, never even once thinking about herself. I helped out as much as I could, but the depth of love, courage, and wisdom she showed for everyone else, Becky especially, far exceeded what I could give. In my own personal walk with Christ, He never fails to do miraculous things in ways I never could have thought possible, and just when I think I can’t possibly love Him more than I already do, He comes along and surprises me yet again. And in my relationship with Blair, she, too, is so very much like Him. Just when I think I cannot possibly love Blair any more or be any prouder of her than I am already, she, too, comes along and does something even more incredible than all the other incredible things she has done, and makes me appreciate her and respect her even more than I did before.
But, there is just one thing about Blair that continues to worry me to this day. While I adore her for her absolutely enormous heart, it is that same wonderful, sweet, precious, huge heart of hers that concerns me about her the most. As she was helping with the funeral arrangements and trying to be a source of comfort and strength for all her friends, she was really pushing herself too hard, and she wasn’t taking care of herself at all. It did worry me and it really, really broke my heart when she and some of the nuns and volunteers at St. Mary’s started talking about other kids who had been killed by their parents, who had served at the shelter alongside Blair and the others, and they started talking about how Blair handled her grief in the past whenever she lost a fellow soldier in this cruel, unfair war that had been launched on them all practically from birth, that they did nothing to cause or deserve. It wasn’t until then that I truly began to understand how and why Blair was often referred to as “the General.” It wasn’t until then that I finally began to realize for myself that child abuse and neglect is not just something that’s “an issue” as people call it today. And it is certainly not something to be swept under the rug and to be ignored as people did in my day. When I listened to them talking to one another that day about all they had been through together, my heart truly started comprehending what Blair really meant when she compared child abuse to a cancerous disease. This really is a war going on, in which children today, in this country and all over the world are literally having to fight against their very own mothers and fathers for their very survival. Oh, sure, we can put up war memorials to honor the memory of our soldiers who bravely entered into the battlefield for us, making the decision to do so as adults and being trained and given weapons to help at least give them a chance of survival in combat, but when little ones actually have to enter a spiritual and mental battlefield, not by choice, not wanting any wars against their parents at all, with no training, weapons, or help of any kind and are brutally murdered as Todd and Scott were, they are given little if any acknowledgement and respect. It hardly takes a rocket scientist to figure it out that in this corrupted world, the lives of adults are considered far more valuable and are far more respected than the lives of innocent little babies and children. And during all the times in Blair’s life in which one of her comrades did fall in this never-acknowledged war, I actually learned that on the day of that person’s funeral, almost always at exactly two in the morning, she would get terribly sick and vomit, even for as long as a couple of hours, practically nonstop.
And it happened on the day of Todd’s and Scott’s funeral as well. I actually did wake up at around two-thirty that morning, hearing Blair vomiting in the bathroom. It always tears me up when Blair is hurting or sick, but that morning, it really ripped me apart. One of Blair’s characteristics that both makes me love her so, so much but also makes my heart hurt almost as much, is how little she asks of me. And when she does ask me for something, ninety-nine point nine percent of the time, it’s for the smallest, simplest things. On that cold, hard, long morning, after she’d already been sick for about an hour, she only asked me to stay with her and to keep holding her up because she was getting weaker, like I could ever bring myself to leave her when I know she needs me.
After the funeral was finally said and done and I brought Blair home, even though I knew she didn’t feel very well, I did my best to at least get a little soup and fluids down her. I knew eating was the last thing she wanted to do, but I knew I needed to at least get her to take some liquids or she’d make her poor little body even sicker than it already was because of this. And once I had gotten her to eat a little and to go upstairs to lie down and rest, I was beginning to feel a little more relieved because I knew that was what she needed.
A lot of us went to Todd’s and Scott’s funeral service that day, including the girls, of course, and Alex and Natalie’s parents and her boyfriend Ben. Jo and Alex went back home afterwards, but Dr. and Mrs. Green and Ben all came back to Eastland with us for a little while. We were all sitting around in the cafeteria talking with each other for a few minutes and then Ben noticed a lovely necklace Natalie had worn to the funeral that had a silver chain and a lovely little purple dolphin hanging from it. When he brought it up in conversation, Natalie explained that she always wore her dolphin necklace whenever she felt the need to express her faith somehow, and that she only wore it for certain occasions. She typically only wore it during the holidays during Chanukah at home and when she spent some time at Tootie’s house for Christmas. As the conversation continued, I learned some of the most interesting things. Natalie explained that the reason she saw her dolphin, which she named Bernie, as a sort of a symbol of her faith is because the fish is actually a symbol that is considered to be a symbol of both the Jewish and the Christian faiths, and that even though she was Jewish, she actually did believe in Christ and the Bible just as much as she believed in Jewish traditions and customs. While she had always believed in God, she hadn’t paid her faith all that much attention in the past, but as Natalie joked, the events of this past year could put the fear of God into most anybody, which is most certainly the truth! I also didn’t know this, but I found out that the rest of Natalie’s family pretty much believed the same way Natalie does. Natalie had also learned many things about the Jewish faith over this past year that I had no clue about that I do wish I as a Christian would have known all these years. My faith has always meant everything to me anyway, but after hearing and learning about so many interesting facts about the Jewish faith has given me a much better understanding of my own. I really do wish more Christians would take the time to do the Bible study and the research of Judaism I know that Natalie did this year. So many Christians out there really do need to have a better understanding and a deeper respect of where they came from. I’ve always loved and admired the nation of Israel anyway, and there has never been a doubt in my mind how special the Jewish people are to God. They, and they alone are the only people who have been scattered to the ends of the earth for centuries and have even come close to complete extermination, only to have their nation miraculously reborn within a single day in 1948. It hardly takes a rocket scientist to figure out that they are a nation who has special supernatural protection from the hand of the Almighty, Himself. But after learning all the things I did from my conversation with Natalie that day, I admire the Jewish faith now more than ever. Ben made the intelligent remark that a mother doesn’t need her child in order to exist and have life, but since a child obviously derives his/her existence from the parents, the child does need a mother in order to exist. And in terms of our Jewish and Christian faiths, of course, Ben is quite right. And he’s also right where biology is concerned. A child cannot physically exist without a mother, but a mother does not need the presence of her child in order for her to physically exist.
But being truly alive in your spirit, where it all really counts, is so much more besides a physical existence in a human body. Yes, we mothers are the ones who give physical life to our children, but I think it is all too commonly overlooked that while we give our children physical life, so many times, God uses our dear little ones to give us a kind of spiritual life. The ultimate source of all spiritual life comes from the good Lord, of course, but I firmly believe that He often uses our babies to be a special kind of source of that life, along with His Word and an honest, sincere lifestyle and friendship and acts of kindness and loving and forgiving even our most bitter enemies, which are powerful sources of spiritual life as well. And I know I can say honestly that I don’t know where I would be today, spiritually speaking, had God not graced me with Raymond, Alex, and Blair, and with my girls as well. Shortly after Blair came home from the hospital, Hailey’s mother and her mother’s boyfriend were actually caught in a drug bust and sent to prison, and thanks to all of Blair’s famous handy string-pulling abilities, she was able to help Mr. Bradley cut through a lot of red tape as the Greens and the Ramseys were able to, and he was thankfully able to begin the process of adopting her and was able to take her home with him to Denver, so she was spared from at least some of the pain Blair and the others went through when Todd and Scott were killed. And when I did talk to him on the phone on the day of their deaths, he nearly said the exact same thing about Hailey and about being a parent himself.
I get so sick and tired of this rotten attitude I’ve always seen and heard from parents and grandparents about what sacrificial saints they are and how much their children owe them for bringing them into the world and giving them an existence, like their act of having sex with each other was some great act of sacrifice and hard work on their part! I’m sorry, but when a man and a woman have sex with each other and conceive, one, it was hardly a deep act of sacrifice, and two, neither one of them really had anything at all to do with the creation of their child. God’s the One who knitted their child together in the woman’s womb. They just had sex together. The Almighty’s the One who did the real work. And it’s the child whose mere presence alone gives real beauty, depth, and meaning beyond comprehension to the lives of the parents, constantly, ceaselessly, day in and day out, without fail. Who loves like a little child does? Who trusts like a little child does? Who naturally looks at the goodness in their parents and is so willing to overlook their faults? Who loves it when their parents sing to them, even though their parents are completely tone deaf, because they love their parents and the sounds of their voices so much? Who else can fill a heart so full of joy and love, just simply by crawling up into your lap and falling asleep in your arms? Does a little child know the first thing about evil, about hatred, about racism, about any of the wickedness of this fallen world? No! God’s little ones know nothing of these things.
And while adopting Blair as my very own has been one of the absolute greatest joys of my entire life, my heart will always break at the knowledge of what was stolen from her and the kind of unbelievable cruelty inflicted upon her from the earliest of ages. It hurts my heart so badly that I cannot go back and take all of that agonizing pain away from her. But while this evil war of child abuse launched against our most precious little ones, I think often due to the increasing self-centeredness of parents in our society nowadays, does rage on against our babies, and while our hearts are still hurting over the loss of such fine young men as Todd and Scott, I refuse to give up hope. Our treasured little ones are not treasured in this world at all because of the curse of the Fall of Man, but I still know who my God truly is, and I know that in His Home, our wonderful babies really are given the respect they don’t always receive on earth. Jesus, Himself, basically warned us in a nutshell that if we adults do harm to one of His little ones, especially if we are somehow a stumbling block in a child’s relationship with Him, it’ll be better for us if we’re drowned at the bottom of the sea. He showed the most profound love and respect for little ones and their natural, sweet ability to love and to trust. And I cannot begin to thank both Jesus Christ and Blair Warner enough for all they’ve taught me this year, waking me up to the painful, harsh reality of this war of evil against our babies, both in and out of the womb, and those babies who are not only infants, toddlers, or small children, but teenagers as well. They may not like to admit it, of course, but as any true parent knows, our babies are always our babies, even if we parents live long enough to see them turn eighty. The odds may be stacked in favor of self-centered and abusive parents and adults right now, but I do know that the day of our dear little ones is definitely coming. Our babies will have their day, and when they do, it will last forever.
12-26-2010, 01:09 AM
After several fowl-ups, thanks be to God, I have finally been able to post TFF's end. Now I want to take a moment and say thank you to the good Lord, first and foremost, who gave me the gift of writing I have always loved so much throughout my life, and I TOTALLY have to give a huge shout-out to Billie, because without her, I never could have come this far. Billie, you're the greatest and you know I love ya! ;) 12 Hours and The Fifth Floor are both lovingly dedicated to God, to Billie, and to the memory of my dad who, while he was never a writer, did have a great love of reading and I know I've learned a lot from him over the years.
And last but CERTAINLY not least, these stories are dedicated with all my love to all children who are brave soldiers born into the devastating war of child abuse, to the memory of all who have fallen in this war, both in and out of the womb, and to those precious young warriors who are still with us and are fighting the good fight. May you all never fail to turn to God for love, compassion, and strength when you cannot have it in your earthly parents, and may you never succumb to the poisons of hatred and bitterness. Learn what your God-given gifts and interests are and pour your energy into developing them for His Heavenly and righteous purposes, not into hating the parents who have made themselves your enemies in this war. And may you NEVER lose your hope and faith in the Lord and in His Truth. The world doesn't recognize you as it should, but take heart, because it didn't recognize the very Son of God, either. But mark my words: your day WILL come and you and your brave fight WILL be acknowledged by Jesus Christ Himself, who will NEVER overlook you and your struggle as this evil world does! My love and prayers are with you all ALWAYS!
God bless you all, my SO friends, my fellow writers here on the SO fanfic boards, and may God bless and watch over ALL of our children and especially those of you who are still fighting for your lives in this war. Merry Christmas. :)
12-27-2010, 08:51 PM
Fabulous work as always Leigh. I am extremely honored that you would dedicate this story to me and I am blessed to have been a part of it. Thank you so much for giving me to chance to read it and offer some feedback to you throughout this process.
I think the ending of this fic is the perfect way to sum up this amazing story. It is obvious that you have put your heart and soul into this story and your faith is shining through in this final installment. Your advocacy for children suffering from abuse is inspiring and by writing this story you have opened others' eyes as well.
I am proud of you for writing something that I know was difficult, yet means so much. Congratulations on finishing it. I will certainly miss reading this story.
12-28-2010, 10:24 PM
I think that this entire story was excellent and you did a really good job in bringing it to its conclusion. As Billie touched on, the fact that the story really dealt with a very important and controversial subject made it just that much better. Leigh, you are a truly gifted writer and I think you need to bring that talent to some original stories. As fun as writing fanfiction can be, there is is nothing quite like developing your own stories and creating your own characters. You certainly have the talent to do so. :)
vBulletin v3.5.0, Copyright ©2000-2013, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.