by Zazil Libertad Farfan
Some memories never leave you: the jade green paint that covered every inch of the hospital walls, never missing a spot, not even miniscule. The lofty windows that overlooked the surrounding skyline and mirrored the colors of the sunrise in an artistic manner that resembled that of Monet. The daily recurrence of the same flock of pigeons that basked in the sunset on the stone window sill. The blissful feeling of taking the first steps into the gargantuan garden that almost resembles that of The Secret Garden as the sun sets and leaks light through the vines and cracks that litter the walls that encompass you.
The day had come to an end. Nine year old Meredith was dismissed from school hours earlier and had yet again caught herself wandering in the hospital’s garden, one that seemed almost too magnificent for her liking, as if the architects had known she longed for the solitude the long elevator rides down to the first floor provided her with and the comfort she found in nature and the swift, bitter winter breeze that blew her hair back as the doors to the outside parted., known her father was dying of cancer and her only consolation could have been the thick green vines, overbearing oak trees, and dainty white flowers that had found their graves in the secluded garden. Meredith had spent hours there, never giving a second thought to the blistering cold that shut all other visitors and patients indoors. She found a sense of consolation in her solitude that she could not find elsewhere, but her fingers began to want to curl inside of her and her nose felt as if it would wilt like the flowers in the garden. Being quite a conflicted young girl it took her several minutes to come to the conclusion that she would venture back into the hospital and leave her oasis. She had begun to miss her father, with whom she usually had an inseparability.
Meredith rather dreaded the elevator ride back up to the fifteenth floor of the hospital, for fear that one day she might return to an empty hospital bed and a room full of weeping relatives. An unusual fear for a nine year old… She arrived at her stop, walked past the nurse’s station, and towards the closet that was stocked with films she was dying to watch. Meredith ran her finger down a stack of DVDs, then another, and another. She stopped, and pulled out Madagascar, remembering that she and her father, Larry, had spoken of it the day before. Hours passed in the hospital, the movie began and ended, relatives came and went, and soon the sun was setting. Meredith fell into a deep slumber on the couch next to her father. The nurses pitied the girl thus allowing her to bring her toy poodle, Bubba, to the hospital for comfort; Bubba, who was usually found lying under Larry’s bed, stumbled over to Meredith and curled up next to her on the couch.
This particular night, her family returned to the hospital. When Meredith awoke in the middle of the night, as she had been doing often as of recent, she was shocked to see her two uncles, two aunts, cousins, brother, mother, and grandmother all in one room. The clock struck midnight. She looked around the room, and to her surprise all of her family members began to cry. Confused and unaware of what had given way to the communal crying, she looked at Bubba who was resting in her arms. “Why is everyone crying?” she thought. She looked at her father, who as usual wasn’t making much movement, then back at Bubba. The dog’s eyes glistened in the light. She mistook this glisten for a tear in his eye and immediately she realized why her family wept. Stupefied, unsure, and terrified of the truth, she ran to her father, embracing him, begging him to wake up. But his skin was cold and he did not budge. Her worst fear had come true. Her best friend had just died.
The memory of years of inseparability and friendship with Larry was all she had left of him. Soon after his death, Meredith found herself at Larry’s memorial service. She was surrounded by strangers, friends of her father, family members, and a few close friends of her own who came with their families. The events between his death and his memorial service began to blur. They were not quite as memorable as the scenery in the hospital room, which had been stuck in her head for quite some time now. While taking a gander at the pamphlet that was given out to each attendee, she came across a poem. Meredith read it and was struck with grief at the final line that read, “God only takes the golden hearts.” Envious of her friends whose families remained intact, she questioned why her father had to have a golden heart, why he couldn’t have been a terrible person just so she could have a few more moments with him… Friends and relatives grieved, more time passed and blurred, her mother began to sell Larry’s belongings, and soon Meredith realized that the promise of a loving family for a child was, in fact, no promise at all.