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You Don't Know What You've Got Till It's Gone
By Isabel Mills

            I hate hospitals. They smell weird, they're too clean, and everywhere I sit there is the same box of Kleenex next to me. Now I sit in the waiting room of one and wish that I were anywhere else but here. I try to tune everything out by shoving my pink earphones in and blasting "Pop" music that I don't even like, but it doesn't work. "I just don't understand how this happened. He was skiing for god's sake!" I hear my mom say to herself. My dad had hurt himself badly following my little brother down the toughest part of a ski resort. No one knew how serious it was until today.

            When my mom called me yesterday, and told me, "Honey, I'm on my way to the hospital. Daddy's hurt. He fell skiing, and I don't know exactly what happened," I didn't think for a second it would be serious. My dad is the strongest person I know, inside and out. When he came to watch my ski races, he would say, "You better have a lung hanging out by the end of this." When I asked him for help with my math homework he would work on a single problem for hours until he got it. When the smallest thing went wrong, he would fix it, even if it didn't matter to anyone else. My dad would hate himself if he didn't pull through, so I knew he would make it.

            Now, sitting here in the waiting room, I don't know what to feel. My dad's seven siblings and their husbands and wives and all their kids and their kids' kids are sitting around me. It feels good to have them here.  Aunt Martha turns to me and says, "Prayer works you know. It helps and it makes a difference." I smiled, knowing that I didn't believe what she said. However I couldn't think of anything else to do so I thought I would try it. I glanced around the room and the rest of my family was already in their own worlds. Coincidentally there was a large cross on the wall of the small rectangular room we were all sitting in. I put my head down, and my hands together and thought. "Dear God, I don't really know you but I really think I need your help now. All I want is for my dad to stay alive. If he pulls through, I promise I will believe in you. We need a miracle and you're the only one I can think of to ask. I promise to go to church every Sunday and also to keep praying if he turns out all right. Amen." I opened my eyes self consciously, but everyone else's eyes were still closed. I guess I am an amateur prayer. I didn't know what else to say.

            Jackson, my brother who is also my best friend, noticed the tears in my eyes but he didn't say anything. I am the only one he isn't shy around, but no one believes me that he actually has a personality. "Does Jackson need someone to talk to?" "Is he doing ok?" "How's he handling it?" People keep asking me but there's nothing to say. Now he won't even talk to me, the one person he will usually talk to. Today when we were back sitting with my dad, everyone was crying. But when I looked at Jackson, he was calm. It made me so mad! I guess I had been glaring because my mom looked at me and said, "Honey, what are you doing? You're scaring me." "He's not even upset!" I said. That was a lie though; I knew he was upset; he just needed to show it.

            The first night that we heard the news, all family was called to the front desk. A middle sized and aged man with a large beard was waiting for us. When he started talking, I decided that I didn't like him. "Dr. Mills is under critical care. The news is bad. His brain hasn't been getting enough oxygen and we don't know what will happen." I saw my aunt Martha fall to her knees and hug the legs of one of her sisters. I saw my mom's hand cover her eyes, probably wishing she were dreaming. I saw my uncle grab Jackson's hand. Then I saw myself; standing there absorbing everyone else's actions but doing nothing myself. My eyes seemed dry, like I couldn't cry anymore, and I hated myself for that. Maybe I was too tough on Jackson. 

            "How are you?" a family friend asked while she was visiting. What? How am I? How do you think I am? Horrible. I feel like crying, or dying. And I definitely don't feel like talking to you. "Good," I answered. "Fine," "all right," "O.K." is what I told people. But that wasn't what I was. I needed a distraction.    

            My best friend Emily came to the hospital to visit for a few hours. "So who all is related to you?" she asked. I responded, "Anyone with blonde hair and blue eyes is a Mills." I have brown hair and hazel eyes, but I'm still related. I wish I had blonde hair and blue eyes. It was kind of a trademark on my dad's side of the family. Jackson is a pure Mills. I have the features, except they are sometimes unwanted. I got my dads strong chin, his big ears, and his full nose. People come up to me and tell me I look a lot like my dad. "Is that supposed to be a compliment or are you saying I look like a man?" I always thought. Now I love it when people say that. Jackson is a complete replica of my dad. I decided I could never ever lose him, because I can just see him there when Jackson smiles.

            My mom called me out of the waiting room to go back and see my dad. I had seen him before but for some reason it was worse today. His face was scratched in a few places, and his eyes were black and swollen shut. His nose, the feature that made him most recognizable was broken and swollen. His fat lips were around a clear tube. Every part of him was wrapped or splinted or swollen. Finally I saw his shoulder. I reached out and put my hand on it. It was warm and it felt like him, and I finally recognized my dad. I had heard before that people in comas could hear and sometimes they remembered. "Daddy," I whispered, "It's me. It's Isabel. I'm here and I love you. Everyone loves you." This was true. My dad was like a celebrity at this hospital. The waiting room was always crowded with people, and they were all for him.  All he has ever done is help people. Why did this happen to him?

            The only thing I had been wanting for a while was some alone time with him. When I got it, I just sat for a while, holding his hand and resting my other hand on his warm shoulder. After a while, I started talking to him, and then I couldn't stop. I told him about everyone out there who is praying for him, and how I had actually prayed. I told him that he would go to heaven and hopefully I would join him later. I told him that I would never quit playing piano and I would always play his favorite song. I told him that mommy wasn't eating or sleeping but I was making her. I told him that my uncle was going to teach me to parallel park this weekend, and I would be able to get my license and help my mom out with driving. Then, I told him that we would be ok. I told him that it would be the hardest time of our lives, but me my mom and my brothers would make it through no matter what happens, and I knew that was all he would want to hear.

            "Isabel, your mom wants you back there." I sighed, "Again?" but walked over to the door that leads to the patients. She was sitting in one of the conference rooms with my two little brothers. "Sit down honey." I sat. The chairs were stiff and too nice. "I just talked to all of the doctors. And.." She was breaking down, I could tell. I reached across the table and grabbed her hand. With a shaking voice she said, "He. Is not. Going to make it." She stumbled out the last part. I wasn't crying; I had already cried and I was almost expecting this. But once the tears came they didn't stop for a while. I closed my eyes and laid my head on the table. "God where are you?" I thought. "Please. I was going to believe! I was going to believe in you, and you let me down the one time I really needed you."

            I looked around the room at my close family of my mom and two brothers holding hands and crying, then thought about all the people out there in the waiting room. They were all there for us. I realized then that I was actually blessed. I was blessed with so many people that I could never thank them all. I have the best friends and family that I could ever ask for, including my cousin's two newborn babies. They were the most beautiful creatures I have ever seen. I began to think that maybe death is just a part of life and life is just a part of death. There must be a reason for why this happened, and I haven't figured it out yet, but I know I will. When my dad passes, new life will rise, and although he will be missed to no end, the future is here.

            My mom told me about a dream she had once. Her dad, my grandfather, or Grampy as I know him, passed away earlier this year. She dreamed that he came to her, she doesn't know where they were, but she could hear his voice as perfectly as if he were still alive.  "Minnie," that's what he always called her, "I'm here, and it is wonderful." I can only assume that means that he is in heaven, and I know for a fact that if my dad is anywhere now he is there with him.


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