The Universe Tries to Right Itself
On August 6th, 2009 my daughter Erin died at 11:15 am, as a seat-belted passenger in a car driven by a friend on the way to a mall. Erin and 4 friends were trying to purchase one more concert ticket for a friend, so they could all attend a Blink182 concert that evening. The vehicle was speeding, being driven erratically and it hit a guardrail, rolled over, hitting the cement median also. Two passengers died, Erin and her dear friend Jason, both seated in the rear. Erin had just turned 16 and Jason was 17.
Erin had been ill for 41/2 years with aggressive colitis, and had survived the removal of her large intestine in January 2009. She was finally healthy, off all medications, and excited to embrace her life. She discovered what most teens in Hull knew, that jumping off the A St. pier into the bay was a summer right of passage. She did well in school, was loved by her friends and knew the meaning of resilience and compassion. She volunteered for many causes, and especially loved helping at the Paragon Carousel.
To say that her older sister Shannon and I are devastated, is an understatement. Our world is forever changed; we would reel from this blow every moment of our lives. Shannon needed to leave for her first semester at college three weeks after Erin’s accident. Due to a shortage of dorms, some students were housed in studio apartments, as Shannon was. She struggled to adjust to this greatest of losses, being alone in a new place, and the workload. Four months into school, Shannon decided she wanted a cat to keep her company, and help her through her emotionally battered days. She and I then adopted a young calico cat from the ASPCA.
We brought this very magical cat home from the shelter, and named her Aylen. She is sweet, gentle and affectionate, and reminds us so much of Erin, in some otherworldly way. In trying to aclimate Aylen to my home during Shannon’s winter break, we introduced Aylen to our 2 dogs. They all were fine together, until I without thinking, put the male dog’s food bowl down. Aylen rushed over, and the dog attacked her, flipping her and breaking her leg. It was terrifying – could our loss be compounded by another so soon? How had I let this sweet animal be injured?
We rushed her to our vet, then to an animal hospital, where it was determined she wouldn’t die. Both Shannon and I cried in the waiting room: for Aylen, for Erin, for ourselves. We tried to explain our emotional state to the emergency aide. We were told Aylen needed either to have a splint, or be operated on for 2 broken leg bones. The difference in price was $1,000. versus $4,000. We chose the splint and lessor price out of necessity. We went home numb.
I remembered I had planned to meet three friends for dinner that evening – and I joined them for a short while to tell them what had happened and explain why I was so late joining them. I briefly explained about Aylen, we talked about Erin, we drank tea.
The next afternoon Shannon and I went to get Aylen, and the same helpful aide took us aside to tell us that an anonymous donor was willing to cover Aylen’s surgery costs if we chose that for her. We both started to cry again. Disbelief… Kindness…. Incredible kindness. What was happening? Who knew where Aylen was being treated? Who could afford to do this? Why did this feel so strongly that it was mixed up with the loss of Erin?
The aide, Megan, took us into a private room so we might compose ourselves, and try to comprehend what she was offering. We needed to decide quickly while the doctor could fit it in her operating schedule. What did we want to do? I asked Shannon to decide. In tears, Shannon said, “Maybe the universe is trying to right itself” and then she said yes to surgery, and a greater hope for full recovery of Aylen’s limb.
Aylen came home with 6 pins in her leg and 2 blue bars to hold them in place. After 6 weeks, they were removed and she went to live with Shannon in Boston. She is fully recovered. I have visitation, because I fell in love with her too.
We honored the donor’s right to remain anonymous, asking only that the vet mail a letter from us, with Erin’s picture, Aylen’s picture, and our immense gratitude expressed inside.
It was approximately 2011, and I was attending a benefit for the Paragon Carousel at the clarion Hotel in Hull. I walked down the main staircase, nearing the last steps, and a woman I did not recognize standing near the bottom stair said quietly “hello KT” and then, ” I got your card”. I paused, wondering what she meant, wondering if I knew her… And then she said, ” the one with the picture of Aylen and Erin in it” and I knew instantly what card she meant- the one we sent to the vet to be forwarded to the anonymous donor 2 years before.
I started to cry, she told me her name again; she was the one person at the table that evening so long ago that I did not really know. I became emotionally overwhelmed; I lost my ability to know where my body was, what was happening around me…And then I thanked her again, and asked her how had she known where Aylen was being treated. And she said that I had been carrying the clinic’s brochure and Aylens paperwork, and being upset I had not noticed that had she had read the name upside down, across the table.
In deep grief, over the loss of a child, a loved pet, it is hard to think normally, to act normally, and I could not stop crying thinking of Aylen and Erin both, and this woman’s kindness to us. My friends nearby collected me, steered me towards a door, and I walked home. I called Shannon and said, “I know who Aylens donor is” and she cried too.