The gentle flutter within her was the reminder she needed that life would go on, even after this day. Her hand instinctively went to her abdomen, as if the small life within her held the strength she needed to keep moving, to keep walking.
A smile wearied itself on her face, but not one of happiness, realizing then that she was a walking oxymoron–an equal blend of life and death. Her eyes flickered to what had been a shrub next to the cracked front step, the leaves dried and shriveled, but still clinging to the once strong branches. The vivid teal and red welcome mat was another blinding oxymoron.
She took one last deep breath, a vain attempt to steady herself, and walked across the threshold.
Her eyes instinctively searched for her brother. She knew he would be the voice of reason–the calm one– he was always the calm one. She had no desire to look into her mom’s eyes, or worse, her dad’s, but they were both rushing toward her now, desperate to hear what she had to tell them.
She continued looking at the floor as if the answers to their questions had fallen at her feet.
Breathe, Claire. Just breathe.
“Okay, guys. I really need you to back off a little and have a seat. I will tell you everything if you just give me some space,” she struggled to keep her voice from quivering.
When she did finally look up from the floor, her mom’s deep green eyes were imploring her so profoundly, Claire was sure she was staring through her, instead of at her.
That’s when her brother walked into the room.
“Claire! Did you find anything out?” he asked as he sat down next to their parents, taking his mom’s hand.
“Yes,” her gaze immediately hit the floor again. “It’s…not good news.”
Her mom was already sobbing and her dad began to visibly tremble.
Now she was speaking like a computer program, like the information she received from the doctor had been programmed into her, so she could spout it off with the press of a button. It is stage 4. Inoperable. Begin first round of chemo early next week. Three rounds to start with. Probably more. Side effects would be very damaging. Hoping to stop the spread, to extend life, but unlikely it will ever go away.
Except for her mother’s hysterical sobs, a suffocating silence enveloped the room.
Claire felt the room begin to move, the ground heaved beneath her, and then her brother’s arms were around her, leading her decaying body to the couch.
As Claire’s parents collected themselves in the kitchen, Grant sat with Claire, holding her hand, saying nothing.
“Claire, you need to tell mom and dad about the baby. What did the doctor say to do about the baby?”
She tried to speak, but nothing would come. You are dying. You are dying. You are dying. This fact was the only one she could comprehend, the only one that currently mattered.
“Claire. I will support any decision you make. You know that.”
She did know that. You are dying. You are dying. You are dying.
After an hour of this oppressive silence, Claire’s parents finally came into the room. Her dad knelt in front of her, while her mom stood motionless behind him.
“Claire, we are going to fight this. We are going to trust God’s plan. This is not going to defeat you, do you understand me?” Claire found it ironic that her dad’s words were so confident, when his voice sounded like that of a little boy’s.
Claire raised her eyes to his. The words she said next came from a different atmosphere; they were heavy and felt strange inside her throat, “Dad. I am not going to do treatment. I am pregnant, and I am going to let this baby live. After I am gone, he will still be here. My baby.”
You are dying. You are dying. You are dying. After these words were out of Claire’s mouth, she finally had the power to answer this torturous voice within her. But the life inside me is not.
Claire hardly noticed her mother fall to the floor, or her dad begin to curse into the air as he crawled from the room.
Grant just sat there; his facial expression impossible to read.
The strength that flooded into Claire after she pronounced her decision left her feeling a strange sense calm, a peace she had never experienced.
Grant knelt down to help their mother into a chair, where she sat motionless for many minutes, no doubt wrestling with losing her daughter and becoming a grandmother in the same day.
“Grant,” Claire still didn’t recognize her own voice, “I need you to be behind me on this. I need you to tell me this is the right thing.”
That’s when the expression on his face changed, becoming one of unmistakable admiration, similar to the look he had when his little sister hit her first home run, but that was when life was simpler.
“I have never been more proud of you in my life. We were raised to believe that life always defeats death, and I don’t think there is a better way to tell death to screw itself than to continue to allow that baby inside of you to grow,” tears were streaming down his face now, “and besides, I am gonna be the world’s coolest uncle!”
When Claire left her parents’ house that evening, neither of them had spoken to her. She didn’t know if they were angry, confused, or grief-stricken. Grant had begged her to stay, trying to convince her she shouldn’t be alone.
What Grant hadn’t realized, however, is that Claire was not alone. Her child grew within her, and her Lord walked beside her. She did not know what the future held, and when she allowed her mind to think on it, it was nearly unbearable–fear viciously stopping her breath inside her chest. The only thing that Claire knew for sure is that she’d made the right decision–she had chosen life, when death threatened to consume every corner of her existence.
Now she knew that what she’d learned in church all these years was true: death never wins.
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