Gratitude has a different name

Turning on the light to chase away darkness from your room. Opening the tap to wash your hands without a need to disinfect them with alcohol each time you wish to touch your baby. Using your toilet and not thinking who sat on it before. Not worrying, that you might bring some infection just by using the bathroom. And even taking a breath of fresh air. Just sitting outside and listening to the birds singing. We really don’t know how much we have until someone takes it from us. Often, this is seen as nothing, normal life, but when you can not do it anymore you realized how important it was to you. CSD teaches you to revalue many things in your life, especially those, which you did not even knew matters so much to you.

Szymek was still lacking strength. His results were slightly improving, but not enough to be released home. Good days were over, when we came for 4-5 days to take chemo and went back home to rest for few days before the next injection. It looks like now, there will not be any break before the last round. Still with his slight rebuild of red, white blood cells and platelets we manage to convince the captain to give us a few hours pass. We still needed to come back to the facility for the night, but it gave us, Mag especially, those few hours, where she could rest at home.  Additionally, each time we came back, Granny, who was helping us much with Szymek, cooked something good for him.  She was the only one, stubborn enough to shadow Szymek with a spoon in her hand and used every chance there was to feed him. And thanks to her, he ate much more than at CSD, much more that we would be able to feed him. We were very grateful to her knowing how vital it was for Szymek to eat and regain strength.

Strength, which miraculously was not departing him. Each time he enters home’s doorsteps he was full of joy and happiness. Running all round the house, trying to play with all the toys, which were waiting for him in his room. In times it looked more like he would fear, that someone will take them away from him and he needs to spend as much time as possible playing with his cars and trains. We could see worry, hiding in his heart, that he will need to come back to CSD shortly, which unfortunately was truth, and will not be able to play with them anymore.  Picture of him having such a good time made us happy and made us cry, knowing that this will not last for long and we need to go back to the place of torment. How much we would give just to stay home, no need to go back to the facility. How much we would give, for a night spent together in our bed and not on the uncomfortable camp-bed, or me alone in the room wondering how my family is doing.  Still we had at least those few hours when we could go home together. Mag could take a shower in her own bathroom and rest a bit in her own bed. This was much appreciated knowing that some families are coming to the Centre from far and they don’t have this luxury.

“We need to go,” I said to Mag, looking at the clock. It was getting close to end of our pass and we need to go back before the night falls.

“Let me just take, a shower at home, as I hate to take it there, and I will be getting ready,” Mag replied and went to the bathroom.

Knowing that there is nothing waiting for us in the Centre – no meds, no liquids, no night injections – and we were coming back for the night just for observation, I wondered maybe there is a chance they will allow us to stay at home and come early in the morning. Maybe my luck is still with me and the captain on the other side of the phone will have mercy on us.

“Hello?” I heard the night duty Captain voice on the other side of the phone line.

“Hi, this is Szymon’s father, I have a question. A little favor to ask. Since there is no meds schedule for Szymek tonight, would there be a chance for us to spend this night at home and come to the Centre early morning before the morning shift arrives?” I tried to be polite and convincing as much as I could.

“Let me check with corporals if this is the case,” the line went silent for a while. “Yes, you can. Just please, as promised, be early in the morning so there will be no issues with the morning meds distribution”. Said Captain.

“Thank you!!” I put the phone down and was back in heaven. The thought of having my family for a night was like a Christmas in the middle of the summer.

“Mag?” I open the doors to bathroom, while she was still taking a shower. “I have surprise for you,” I started with a smirk on my face.

“Really?!” She answers from the shower angry, that I am disturbing her in those few minutes left where she could relax under hot water. “You can not change the diaper yourself and calling me to do it?”

“No, it is not that,” I have replied.

“Tell me,” she said with a little hesitation in her voice.

” You can stay for a night,” I said with great smile on my face.

” Don’t joke about it. It is not something I would like to humor about,” she knew that is was almost impossible to get this kind of pass from the captains.

“Not joking,” I replied with a huge smile.

“What?!? But how?! You called the facility??” She asked, not believing what she is hearing.  “Yes, I said, that since we don’t have any meds schedule for the night, maybe our daily pass can be extended to a night and we could come back tomorrow morning,” I saw how with each word her face gets happier.

“OMG! I don’t believe it! I can sleep in my own bed!” She started to cry from happiness. ”Szymek!!! We are staying home tonight, no need to go back to the facility.”

It took him a while to be fully convince, that we are telling him the truth, and shortly after he was laughing again and we were crying, from happiness. Joy of not needed to do anything else today but just lay in bed, three of us, and fall asleep…safe.

“You may give me an entire world, but it will be nothing if I will not have my loved ones next to me…if I will not feel loved…”

Round Seven – The Fall

 You fall in my arms so weary and weak,

and yet you still have strength

to lay your hand on my heart

and stop the bleeding, bring me back to life…

„I am sorry, but I can not release you home,” Captain Wild said to us entering our room.

“Why?” I have asked with a bit of surprise in my voice.

 “Szymek’s blood results show a significant drop after the seventh round of chemo and this could be our chance to shorten the training, “She continued with showing us the recent test results. “As his leucocytes are very low right now, we have a higher probability of deadly infection. Therefore, if he catches one we will need to react quickly. We need to be sure that all the preparations before the flight are done properly and the risk of going off the course is minimal. “

She was telling us this with a calm voice. Trying not to show too much emotions. Emotions, which could tell us a bit more about her. A bit more why I have this feeling, that she is trying to do all in her power not to make any mistakes. Worried that those mistakes can be used later against her. And you can feel it stresses her out. She tries not to show it be I could sense it. Problem was that it was something more in it. Like she would not want to relive something from the past, but I did not know what. What caused her to be so distant so cautious.

 She seemed to be in her late thirties, from our initial interactions she was very pedantic, which you can also see in the way she dressed under the captain’s uniform. You could sense that she is putting lots of focus into details. This also translated into her work, where she was making sure all tests are done well and on time.

“I have scheduled transfusion of red blood cells and we will try to stimulate cancer cells with neupogen. If we will not succeed and this will just lead us to rebuild of leucocytes, then we will reconsider releasing you home for few days.”

Captain Wild left the room in the same peaceful and quiet manner, that she entered it, leaving us depressed.  I am not sure what was worse. The fact that we need to stay here, and Mag was tired from constant presence in the CSD, small break could do her a miracle. Where she would not need to use common shower, could sleep in her own bed, catch a breath of fresh air. All those small things helping her to recharge the battery for the next chemo injection. Or the fact, that none of this was shown by Szymek, none of those bad results could be seen in his energetic, full of strength behavior. Like our test results were misplaced and by accident taken from somebody else. All of that made us worry, that his uniqueness will not give us any heads up of potential change. And his well-being, can change very rapidly without preparing us for it.

Even though you barely can keep your big blue eyes open,

Half-conscious, heavily breathing to stay alive,

Yet never give up to show us your smile

You never give up

“I will not make it” Mag broke the silence with tears in her eye. She sat on the chair next to Szymon’s bed and started to pat him on his head while he was sleeping.  “I don’t have strengths anymore.” I could see, that those test result cut her wings, as we were hoping to hear something different.

“What else can we do? We need to be for him.” I tried to cheer her up, but I was not really in better mood that she was.

“You are not here all the time, you don’t know how is to be here round the clock,” she replied with slight aggression in her voice.

“How to cope with the place where you don’t have any privacy. Can not go freely to the bathroom as you are scared that while you are out something may happen to your child. Need to wait in the line to wash yourself, and not even be able to go outside breathe fresh air and just have a short break from all of this! And try sleeping on this bed. My back ache so much that you can not image. Plus, I can not get a good night sleep as I am worried that something will go wrong, need to check if he is still breathing, did not wet his bed and sheets needs to be changed, or even pomp will beep and wake up everybody around us.”

 “I would switch with you if I could, but he is so close with you. There is no problem during the day, when he is occupied playing, but as soon as he gets tired he asks for you. And I can not imagine how I could stay a night with him without you not being nearby. “

Honestly, I feared staying there alone with Szymek. And not that I would not know how to take care of him but that he would miss her so much that would cry all night. And we tried to minimize reason for tears as much as you can. It was often that Szymek during the night would waken up and looked for Mag’s hand dragging it on to his belly and asking her to cuddle him.

“I know, but not sure how long I can take it. Staying here without a break,” Mag replied.

You need to be careful in stating out loud your fears, as you never know who listens. We did not need to wait long for our big test. The irony played it strings again and it was not Szymek who got sick, caught an infection, but it was Mag. As she was weary it was not difficult to catch something. We could not risk her infecting Szymek, so there was no other way but to isolate her from him. During the day she was wearing a mask and we decided that the night she will spend in the hotel building attached to CSD. She could have a normal night sleep and if in the middle of the night Szymek will wake up and will not stop crying she will come before he will wake up the whole facility.

“Remember to change his diaper before going to sleep, and if you awaken at night check if he will not need changing to avoid puddle in the morning, “Mag was giving last instructions before leaving to the hotel, “at midnight there is balance of fluid so don’t go to sleep beforehand. Try to keep the bed a bit away from Szymek’s bed so the corporal will have an easy access to his bed during the night. In the morning make milk when he wakes up, you can read to proportions on the box”

“Honey, if I will need something I will call you. Don’t worry I will handle it.” I tried to feel confident but inside I was also scared. Mostly of him waking up at night and starting to cry because he can not see Mag.” Get some sleep. Rest and we will see each other in the morning.”

“I am not sure if I will be able to fall asleep,” Mag replied.

We played a trick of Mag putting Szymek to sleep and once his eyes were closed she left for the hotel.

“Father, if you can hear me, please help me. Help me fight it off, chase it away from his body. I trust, that whatever happens is for our good, but I am not sure if I could stand him leaving. Please change the plans. Make him stay here, and not fly to heaven…”

I looked at him sleeping, so innocent yet fighting with such a strong demon. I could not help to shade a tear, which I needed to hide quickly as corporal surprised me coming to the room and asking for the balance of fluids. As I tried to fall asleep Szymek woke up and started to call for Mag.

 “Mama? Mama?” He sat on the bad, like it was middle of the day.

“Mummy is here, she just needed to leave for a second but she is here” I whispered to him not to wake up other children in the room.

“Mama!? Mama!?” Szymek started to become more nervous.

“Mama will be here shortly,” I pat his head hoping this will help.

“Mama!” He started to cry.

“He woke up, and is looking for you,” I text Mag.

 “Do you want me to come?” She replied.

This is when I saw Szymek claiming down and being sleepy again.

“No, I think he is falling asleep again.” Szymek shut his eyes and laid on the bed.

The rest of the night went peacefully and prize was a big smile on Szymek face when he saw Mag next day.

I stayed few more days to ensure Mag is well again. She finally had a chance to rest properly. I could see that those few days charged her giving again strength to fight.

Please stay,

Stay to chase away darkness

It fears your love

I need your love

Why so serious

No other place can give you such a rollercoaster of emotions. No other place will drag you through terrifying fear, depressing sense of guilt, tears of sorrow to tears of joy and laughter caused by spark of hope. From happiness filling out your heart, as all those positive test results makes you see things more optimistically. To indifference, caused by lack of strength due to constant duties you need to fulfill when being in the facility. And back to sadness, because of this little demonic whisper telling you how unrealistic is to finish this training with Szymon coming back to normal life. Silenced by his smile and joy when playing toys with me.

And on this path of peaks and valleys to sustain sanity you develop, consciously or not, certain type of defense mechanisms. You start to have this strange sense of humor, black, sarcastic humor, which in most cases helps you to fight off the depression.

It was very disturbing for me when for the first time I have faced parents in the common kitchen area laughing, having fun, while I could not feel anything else besides sadness and powerlessness.  It was such a contrast to my emotions, that I have start to wonder. “What the hack is wrong with those people?!? Their child is about to leave, fly to heaven, and instead of sorrow I see joy on their faces?” I could understand Corporals and Captains having fun at work. One liked the job, other needed to cope somehow with stress. But parents?

Soon, I’ve realized, that there is no other way but to let it all go, trust God and just see where he leads you. Time help me also with it. Once we got a bit more familiar with all the procedures. Facility stopped being unknown, horrific place to us. And we heard from Captains, that it is not that quick and certain, that our son will fly to heaven. We start to have more and more those moments when smile returned to our faces. And enjoyed the time we had we Szymek as much as we could.

People who we started to meet in the CSD also helped us forget for a second where we were and what we were going through.

„Oh shit! I wet my bed!” Mark stood up quickly seeing a stain on his bed. “Neah, can’t be” He looked at his dry trousers, making him even more puzzled on what has happened during the night.

“What the hack has happen?” He nervously started to check himself to see why his bed is wet while the clothing does not show any sight of him having a bad night. The mixture of slight embarrassment, discomfort and puzzlement on what could potentially happen.

Mag seeing Mark trying to figure out what has happened at night could not help laughing.

“Oh, just face it. You peed in a bed!” She smirked at him.

This did not help, as Mark started to be even more embarrassed. At this point he was sure, that this was not a case, but could not find a reason for his bed to be wet.

“Shit! Drip leaked.” He shouted and felt a relief in his voice, as it just proved it was not him.

This did not last long, as now he started to worry why this happened and if Bubcia will not need again the meds.

Mark called the corporal to come and fix the issue. In the meantime, Ann, his wife came after a night spent home, to take care of Bubcia.

“Good morning Mrs. Ann. Coming to change your husband?” Corporal welcomed Ann.

“Yes, I leave him for one day and we have an accident.” Ann responded to Corporal, at the same time teasing Mark a bit.

“You have a nice-looking sister.” Corporal continued while fixing Bubcia’s drip.

“Sister?” Ann asked confused as she did not have any sister. At least not to her knowledge.

“Yes, she was here yesterday in the evening, when I was starting my shift. I saw her leaving the room.”

“A, thank you, it was me…with make up!” Ann responded with a smile and slight confusion, as she never would assume that dressing up and putting make up on can change her looks so much.

Ann and Mark were this breath of fresh air much needed in those stuffy rooms. First people, we share the room with, who brought with them, this very needed here, sense of humor. With slight distance to reality and a bit of sarcasm, it helped to loosen up dense atmosphere. They were the ones who helped us cross the bridge to the other side, to join those parents who digested the fact that for next couple of months they will need to be here and started to find some positives in that situation. And this helped a lot, fact that Mag could take her mind of the training, Szymon uniqueness and talk about other, non-related topics, help her not to collapse. From clothes, shoes, wine, travelling and books to just making fun of situations we were struggling with caused that all those demons that were hunting us for past few weeks were not that scary any more.

Sophie – The great warrior

“Keep running!!! Don’t look back!!!”

She was wakened up in the middle of the night by her mother, dressed up quickly, bow placed over her shoulder and put on the horse. Mother knew it’s the only way to save her, give her time to get stronger.  The best thing she could do for her is to put her on that horse and let her go. She told her where to go, where to seek shelter, and just hoped she will make it before he will come and take her.

The horse was steaming on this freezing night giving an impression it was a machine and not an animal. Running through the woods with an enormous speed, omitting all the obstacles on its way. Sophie knew the sanctuary is not more than a day ride, but she felt his heaving breathing on her back and could not afford the comfort of resting, not even for a second.

When next day was heading towards the end, and she could barely hold the horse. Just about the time she started to lose hope, finally in the distance she saw the doors of the orphanage. Few more minutes and with last of her strength she rang the bell. Last thing she saw just before fainting was a monk opening a big wooden door.

“Finally, I feared you will not make it”. Said the monk to himself while carrying her unconcise to the room. He put her to bed, allowing to rest for a while before preparing for next day. As he knew they need to be ready for his arrival.

Early in the morning they heard loud knocking on the door. “In the name of Sir Can, I ask you to open the door!”

“How, can I help?” Asked the monk, opening the door.

“Make way, for the Lord.” Guards pushed him away, opening wide the entrance to the courtyard.

Minute they were inside they started to sniff around like hunting dogs looking for its prey. The courtyard was small, empty square, with nice gallery surrounding it, which lead to the monks’ rooms. Above them ware orphanage’s windows, where you could see little children peeking, and trying to understand what is the rumor about.

“Gather them all here, and make sure no one is hiding!” Order Sir Can to his guards.

Soon after, all the monks and children were standing next to each other on the courtyard, and the only difference telling who is who was their height. As all of them were dressed in the habits with their heads hidden in the hoods.

“Take them off! One with the curly, red hair is the one.” Sir Can order to the guards.

They took off children’s hoods to search for the little, red hair girl but to their surprise each time they took off a hood they did not see any red hair, they did not see any hair. Just bold heads, one after the other.

She was standing in the line, waiting for her turn. For a second she took the hand out of the habit to look at the small lock of her red hair cut day before. Cut by herself to blend in with the rest, to make sure he will not have an easy job spotting her. She looked down on the floor when guard took her hood off and waiting till he passed her. Luckily, he was not spending too much time looking at her before he moved to the next child.

They finished with the last one, fifty children standing next to each other, all of them bold, all hardly recognizable. There was no chance to spot the one they were looking for. Little, beautiful red hair girl. No chance to get his promised one, which drove Sir Can into madness.

“What is this!?!” He yelled and screamed. „Where is the red head one, where are their hairs! I know you’re hiding somewhere in this crowd! Step out or I will kill one of the monks!” He walked back and forth trying to spot little Sophie.

No one moved, all were standing like little stone statues. No one even dared to make any noise. Sir Can came to one of the monks, took out the knife and slip his throat. Monk fall on the floor and the rest just look at him dying, but no one moved, not even blinked to betray the precious one that was amongst them. As they knew that once she will have a chance to get stronger, she is their only hope against him, against his tyranny.

“I will give you last chance!” Sir Can spoke with calmness and firmness in his voice. “I will give you 3 months to grow your hair, and come back to take what is mine. When I’ll be back and see you all bold again, I will kill you all! Knowing that one of you will be her. This is your last chance to spare your lives and give me her instead.”

Sir Can turned on his toes and left the courtyard assisted by his guards. When they left everybody breathe a sigh of relief.

“We don’t have much time, and I know you are young and should be spending time on playing with other kids rather than learning how to fight him off. But you don’t have a choice, so let focus our minds on training you.”

Little, bold girl look at the monk, he was the same who open the door the other day, and with fear in her heart she just nodded, to show that she agrees.

Time was passing by quickly and with each day Sophie was learning how to hold the bow, aim properly, and shoot to hit a bullseye from far distance. From the early morning till late night, with freezing fingers she was practicing and practicing. And there were days where she wanted to give up, just give herself to him, but soon, she saw a picture of her loving family, of dying monk, and this was giving her back the motivation she needed.

Sophie was learning fast, and started to shoot with high precision from longer distances, she even manages to hit the bullseye on the moving target. This gave her confidence that when he will be back, she will stand a chance against him.

“You are very talented, and learning fast.” Said her teacher. “But this is still not enough to beat Sir Can. We will start now our last phase of training.”

The monk opened right hand and showed her piece of cloth that he was holding. He blindfolded her and said. “You will not see him, you will not hear him and you will not feel him. He will come in most unexpected moment, and will attack you with his full power. Now you need to learn how to sense him with your intuition.  Know where he is without any of your senses, as this is the only way to beat him, only way to win with him, so he will leave you once for all.”

Hair grew longer and longer on her head, remaining each time, she looked in the mirror, that she has less and less time to master the skill of blind shooting. The beginning was very difficult, Sophie could not even hit the area outside the target, shooting arrows in all the directions. The monks asked children to avoid courtyard gallery, to ensure that none will get hurt.

“This is the end. I will never master that.” She wept.

It was any time soon, when Sir Can was to arrive again, during one of cold night, when She decided not to go to bed but practice. Her teacher approached her.

“Please take off your blindfold.” Asked her quietly, almost whispering. The gallery was lit by torches placed round main square, giving a magical appearance to this place. When she looked again she saw first flakes of snow coming down from the sky.

“I have asked one of the girls to draw his effigy. Take it and place it on the target. Stand there for a while and try to remember how he looks, what you felt the day you saw him. Try to remind yourself how he walked, talked, what emotions were coming from him. And place all those feelings to this target. Let your heart guide you.”

Sophie came back after a short while. “Now close your eyes. Spin and stop. Don’t shoot! Wait a second. Bring back again that picture in your mind, bring back all those feelings, and don’t aim. Now, clear your mind, shoot before thinking.  Let the arrow find the target.”

When she opened her eyes again, arrow was sticking from the bullseye.

”But how? Did I?” Sophie asked surprised, not fully believing that it was the same arrow that she released a second ago.

“Yes, you. Now, go to sleep as I sense he will come tomorrow.”

Late evening, they heard same knocking, which disturbed their peace over 3 months ago. This time they let them into the main dining room. This was the place where each day children ate before and after hard work. Everybody was already standing in two parallel lines right next to the walls. Room was lightened by torches hanging from the walls. The monks were standing next to each of those torches having the children stand in front of them. There was a dense silence in the room. Everybody waited for what was about to happen. Sir Can entered accompanied by his guards. “Take them off!” He yelled. They were uncovering their head one by one. Each showing short, freshly grown hair. Sir Can walked close to each one of them, making sure he will not miss her. When they were close to the end and still none of the children were showing those beautiful red hair, he turned around, and as he was about to say something, she walked into the room carrying a bow and arrow in her hands. She stopped right in the center of the room, opposite to the Sir Can, uncovered her head to show her beautiful hair and look deeply into his eyes. In this right moment the monks, blew out all the torches making the room completely dark. You could not see even what is at the extend of your own hand. Complete silence was building up the suspense, as Sir Can knew, that even small noise will reveal his position to the girl.

Suddenly the silence was broken by the noise of three arrows bursting through the air and sound of body falling to the floor. Followed by the noise of guards trying to scream, make a sound, but their voices were quickly disappearing. When the torches were lightened again, everybody looked to see all of the guards laying on the floor dead. In the middle of the room, it was him, Sir Can laying on the floor with three arrows piercing his heart. The silence was present till next morning, as nobody dared to say a word. Everyone knew that they need to take this secret to the grave.

Soon after Sophie returned save to her mother, who anxiously awaiting her. Her heart was full of confidence and courage, that whatever evil will come to her, she has strengths and skills to fight it off. Her mother was happy to see her, have her finally back in her arms. Still with all the happiness she saw that her heart changed. Her heart from now on will always fear, that this may happen again and she might lose her for good.

Round Six – High hopes

„This is unacceptable!!!” Captain Blind entered our room and tossed the recent test results on Szymon’s bed. “We put so much effort in making sure your Son will make an early cut! We have listed him into European Space program, supported with Neupogen, in between chemotherapy injections, to ensure proper tumor growth, and all for nothing!! Instead of growing his tumor shrank. Now it’s almost half of the size it was when you were listed. Marrow is clean and bones are showing much lower presence of cancer cells…”

“Yell, scream… spill all that anger on me. The second you leave the room those words will bring me to tears… but for the first time in the long time those will not be tears of sadness, those will be tears of joy…” I looked at her trying note all what was she saying but my mind suddenly went somewhere else. To the place where I wanted to be for a past few weeks. I heard her voice but second she told me the good news, rest was not important.

“…this puts us back in the whole training program. If this will be his way of reacting to the training I am not sure if he will make the flight at all!!! Do you hear me!?! There is a risk he will be cut of the program!” Captain Blind stop for a second to catch a breath. “It doesn’t make sense anymore. I had such high hopes in you and you ruined it all.” With much calmer voice, hearing here ambitions just collapsed. “I need a break… long break. I am going for an annual leave.” She paused for a second with her thoughts wondering off to some other place. “Your test results are not showing any risk of sudden change. You can go home for couple of days. We will inform you who will take your son when you will be back. Thank you! And have a nice trip home!” She left the room.

Mag and I looked at each other and fall into our arms. We waited so long to hear something positive, to have some proof that our prayers are being heard and it finally came. Our hearts finally felt a relief. Huge burden was taken from our shoulders and tears, which fall on our cheeks, were not coming from sadness but from happiness.

“We are going home!” Szymek shouted and energetically started to pack his things. He looked so adorable, bustling round, lifting his hands up and down, showing how much he is busy with packing.

“Yes, we are going home!” We replied looking at him with all the love we had in us.

“And Happy Birthday, Happy Birthday and aphooo”. Szymek looked at us smiling.

 “Yes! And birthday cake!” Mag replied with a smile. “It is our new tradition, to have birthday cake each time we leave the facility! And blowing up candles”. She lifted him up and I finished picking up our things, so we could head to the car.

We walked the corridor to the elevator and suddenly saw this place in much more cheerful colors. Warmer, sunnier tones, feeling that not only terrible thing can be encountered here.

We left for home, having Captain Blind’s words in our hearts. We left for home much lighter, much younger, and full of hope. Hope, which for the first time, was something more than just our wishful thinking. Hope giving us first signs, that it is possible for Szymek to be cut from the program due to lack of any signs of cancer in his body.

Close to our home we spotted Granny, Bunia – Szymek greatest companion, walking back home from grocery store. As we stopped to ask her if she would like to ride with us those couple of meters back home, it was good reason for Szymek to get anxious and get out of his seat. It was also a good reason for him to ask if he can fulfill his new passion, which was driving a car while sitting on my laps. I took him on my knees and we slowly drove those few meters to our driveway. And as much as I tried to forget the nightmare he was going through, pretend for a second that we are just a normal, typical family, as much as I loved seeing him having a time of his life, turning the wheel left and right, as much as I tried to take the most from this very moment, I could not quiet this one horrific thought, which hunted me in past few weeks. The thought telling me, that in a year or so what currently brings me so much joy and happiness, what is so much important in my life – time spend with my son, in few months’ time may just be another memory of him cherished in my heart. Memory treasured so deeply and constantly return too, as this is the only thing I have of him. The only thing I was left with from the day he flew to heaven.

“Why are you crying?” Mag saw my tears and asked.

“I am stilling memories. Trying to store them deep in my heart.  If we will not succeed those will be only thing I will have left of him…”. I replied.

Her tears came without asking for permission…

We have entered the house, decorated with balloons. Soon cake with lit candle was waiting for Szymek to blow it. And for the first time with joy in our voices we sang birthday song.

 “Happy birthday! Happy birthday!” Szymek tried to sing with us.

”Dear who?” We asked.

“Shiimek!” he replied with a big smile.

Smile hidden deep in my heart and warming me up during cold winter nights.

The sound of distal air

“Hush! Let the music play. Just close your eyes and pretend that this sound is something else. Let the violins, trumpets, cellos and clarinets lull him to sleep. Please, allow it, just for a second, to make this world perfect again, make this world more beautiful than it really is. Please be quiet, don’t say a word, let me submerge into the music of beeping pumps and pretend it is something else…”

From day one, when you walk on the 7th floor’s corridors, you are overwhelmed with all different sounds. From children’s laughter, caused by them playing on the corridor, Captain’s consulting their cadets among each other, Corporals teasing themselves, to loosen up dense atmosphere caused by stressful work, to less pleasant sounds coming from the treatment rooms, where children, who needs to have a new needle inserted to their port, are crying, screaming, asking to make it stop. And from time to time you can hear sobbing parent, well hidden in the corner so that his child will not see him having a break down. All of that gave a unique master piece, a symphony of sorrow. When I sometimes sat outside of Szymek room, to rest a bit, and closed my eyes I felt like it was penetrating me up to my bones.

On top of that, there were those beeping pumps, standing in all the rooms. Those pumps, to which most of the cadets were connect, to take their meds. And even though they all looked the same each beep was a special one. Each beep was associated with a child, your child, therefore you listen to it, like it would be his or her heart beat. Reacted to any abnormal behavior. Fear caused by the fact that pump might malfunction was high, therefore each time you saw an error you ran to a corporal ensuring nothing wrong is happening, nothing which would harm your little one.

From the start, you are instructed what to do, when the pump is jammed. “Close the clip, mute the error beep and ask for our assistance.” Corporal said, while showing how the pump works. “Most common error is caused by either pump having a small amount of air in the tube or the meds are over. In both cases, as I said, key is to close the clip, so that blood will not float back to the tube, and ask for assistance. Otherwise we will need to clean the tube and it is not that easy.”

“What?! She is talking about the air in the tube with such a calm voice?!” I though. “They teach you in school, that air injected into your veins will kill you and she is saying like it was nothing?!”

We were freaking out each time we saw “Distal air error” text on our pump. Closing the clip immediately and almost running to the corporal saying, that something wrong is with our pump. And could not understand why they are taking this so peacefully, something even with a bit of the smile.

“No problem Mr. W. Let me just finish distributing the meds and I will come to your room.” Corporal responded with warmth and smile on her facing. It shocked me a bit that she is not seeing that as potential life threat, but just a normal, nothing to worry, error, and will come in few minutes. So, I just turned around and went back to the room.

After few weeks, we realized that it is so commonly occurring thing, not causing anything bad, that finally understood why corporals do not react with panic when we report this to them.

Unfortunately, there is one sound that makes Captains and Corporals run. I saw it twice, both cases pressed by accident. Frist time by Szymek playing with the buttons on the wall, and second me, when I leaned against the wall – life threat Alarm. It was then, when I saw them coming to the room, at least three people ran. Hoping to see him flying, hoping to help him on the way. What was a disappointment on their faces, when I told them it was just a false alarm. An accidental push, which we promised not to do again…and we kept our promise.

“Hush! It’s night again. Lights are dimmed and little ones are asleep. I can quietly walk the corridors to hear it heartbeat. Its music full of pings and beeps, distal error sounds, combine with parent’s snoring. Music no one would want to hear but me. As this it is free of cries and pain..sleep little ones tomorrow comes another hateful day.”

The nightmare of letting go

“I will walk you through the path of fear and sorrow, holding you by your hand. I will gradually prepare you for what is inevitable, so when the day will come, your heart will stay calm, as you will watch him received the greatest gift one could get – eternal life.”

“Amm! Amm!” One of the worst things we had to cope with was a sound of Szymek begging for food and us saying “no” as he needed to be on an empty stomach.

“Amm! Amm!” From asking, to begging, to angry yelling, and finally ending with despair. “Amm! Amm!”

Seeing him falling on the bed with eyes closed, as he has no more strength to keep them open, emotions aroused in us. Emotions, you try to control, to have your mind clear. The anger mixed with helplessness, pushing you to your limits, as you would do all, just to end your child suffering. At the end, you know all you can do is just wait and watch. Wait for hours, as we needed to refrain from feeding him from midnight the previous day, to sometimes even 2 p.m. Each testing day the que of cadets waiting for their turn was long and not much we could do to speed up the process.

The reason for all that suffering was a fact, that cadets could not move during the tests, not to distort the results. Therefore those, who were too young to understand it, like Szymek, were put under sedation. And for an anesthesia to work properly, he could not eat nor drink eight hours before the test. Since nobody knew exactly what time the test will be conduct, we need to be on this horrible standby mode until Captain’s performing the test called us in. For us there was nothing worse than telling Szymon, that he can not take any food or drink. Telling our two-year-old child, who suffered enough already, that we can not do anything about his hunger or thirst.

“Ammm. Ammm.” This time with much weaker voice and tears in his eyes, while he was trying to point to the cupboard standing next to his bed, where normally he could find a sandwich, pretzel, or boxed juice. Now all was hidden from him, not torture him with the sight of the food.

“Just few more minutes. Soon we will go for a quick test and then there will be amm.” Mag tried to calm him down, which in most of the cases just made him even more angry.

“Szymek, your turn” Said the corporal entering the room. “As always please take a blanket with you, as it can be cold in the corridors.” Mag took Szymek from the bed, as he did not like to travel in it. And we walked to the elevator pushing his bed along the way.

Road to the testing room begins with a labyrinth. Leaving the elevator, we need to cross almost whole basement, constantly making right or left turns, passing by doors to either technical rooms or, lost in the depth of the basement, Captain’s clinics. Once, one of the corporal admitted to us, that after two years of working here, she still, from time to time, gets lost in this little maze. The final turn and we are at the straight, long corridor where at the end, on its left, there is glass door leading to the testing area.

Szymek never liked going through this corridor, especially when he needed to travel is his facility bed. Due to lose tiles, the beating wheels were making him nervous and he preferred to pass it in Mag’s arms where he felt safe. The look of this place was also not helping. Although on the left side there was a wall full of windows, giving a bit of natural light inside, old paint on the walls, dirty windows, and those loose tiles, were making an impression like we were in b-class horror movie.

The testing area was divided into two sections, waiting room – well known to many parents, and two cabins with the testing equipment. When we arrived there, we needed to wait for few minutes, for the previous test to be over and then they called us in.

The testing cabin is a huge room, with lots of equipment. Funny how all this new, high tech equipment was kept in the old, not renewed for years, building. They kept low temperatures inside, so that once everything will be turned on, the heat will not get to unpleasant levels. We laid Szymon on the big bed, and while holding his hand to keep give him comfort, prepared ourselves for the worse.

“Mrs. W we are ready to start the sedation. We will start with a small douse to make him sleepy and then once he will shut his eyes inject the rest. He should be sleeping for next 30 to 40 minutes, while we conduct the test.” When Captain finished explaining us shortly the procedure they started to inject the meds into his veins.

The nightmare of letting go, preparing you to your worse fear. Allowing you to get use to the thought of him flying to heaven one day. I saw it only once and this was already an image that hunted me for long, but Mag was expose constantly to it. From day one of our presence in the facility, she had to see how he passes away. And it’s not looking the same to just falling asleep, not with little scared child.

This one time, when I was present during the sedation, he was holding Mag hand, calling her constantly to make sure that she will not leave him. Looking with his scared eyes and hoping that she will end this. Take him far away from this horrible place and will not allow for any test to be performed.

“Mum! Mum!” Szymek was trying to call her when it happened. He started to lose his voice, it sounded like his lungs would fill up with water. Sound that was giving an impression, that he was drowning. Like he could not catch a breath. “Muuummm! MMMMMmmmm…”

He started to mumble, slowly closed the eye,  and soon silence is the only thing you could hear from him. Firm shake became loose, as his body begins to be flaccid. Our hearts started to pound and fear paralyzed the body. Is this it? Has he flown to heaven? We were nervously looking for any sight of life. His hands were still warm, and soon we could see chest moving. He still breaths! What is so obvious to a side observer, for us, for some reason was covered with dark cloth. We knew, that he was just asleep, but for those few seconds, those few seconds, which lasted a life time, we wanted to scream, yell for help, as it looks like we just lost him. We lost our beloved child.

For those few seconds, you can not force yourself to think rationally, you don’t think at all. Just allow panic to take over whole your body. As to all, after a couple of sedation, Mag slowly got used it. The routine and knowledge what to expect next, help her to cope with it somehow. But fear never went fully away. It was just hiding behind the glass door and waited for a good occasion to come back.

“We are good to go, you can release his head and hand and proceed to the waiting room, we start the test soon.” Few words coming from anesthesiologist, reassuring us that all went fine and Szymek just fallen into deep sleep. They hooked Szymon to respirator, to assist him during the test to hold his breath for couple of seconds. This was also part of the procedure. This was the image you see when you leave the room.

“I lead you through the dark times. Guide you, so you will not get lost on the way. As you are blind now, but someday I will show you the plan, I will make you see.”

The doors opened and captain came out of the room. “We are done. See, nothing to worry about.” Said a Captain with a bit of a smile on her face. “Please stay here for couple of minutes until he fully wakes up.”

So innocent and vulnerable sleeping on his bed, like all those things that just happened were just a bad dream…just a bad dream…from which you can not wake up.

“AMMMMMM! AMMMMMM!”

Celebrities are also humans

“You are all equal in my eyes, you are all special in my heart, as each one of you is unique in its shape and form and I will treat you all the same. Giving and taking back what is the most precious to you, life, and no one can change that.”

„Did you see it?” One of the mothers stopped me on the corridor and whispered, not to be heard by others.

 “What?” I asked with slight disorientation in my voice.

 “In one of the rooms lays an actor’s child”. She continues with discretion in her voice.

“Who?” Now I have asked with a bit of curiosity.

“Not sure if you know them, they played in one of the TV series. Nevertheless, they have their own private room, not like the others. And he is always walking with a cap on, not to be recognized. Like people would not know that it is him.”

I went back to our room and started to get course, nervous and at the end even jealous. After a while I was not proud off all those emotion but they were too strong for me to battle from the start. Questions roaming in my mind. “Who are they? Can I spot them? Can I touch them? Can I? Can I?” Or even worse. “So, there are equal and more equal people… we need to be in the room with two or three other children, while they have their own room.”

Luckily, I shook off from all those feelings and realized, that being here is no blessing.  No matter how famous you are, how rich, it will not save your child. May give you a bit more chances and comfort going through this nightmare, but that is it.

I watched them for few days, just to see how they cope with the whole situation. And it was then, when I started to feel sorry for them. It was then, when I realized, that they are not really in better situation from us. Fact, that they were constantly being watched was giving them one more stress to battle with. Stress which already you have too much to deal with. I saw people looking at her, when she was walking to the kitchen, to make a meal for her son. I saw how people gaze at her, when she was asking for new bedsheets as her son, same as any other child, vomited and she needed to change them. Just by herself, with no help from any servants. I saw him walking on the corridor with cap on, hoping that nobody will spot him, take a picture to sell to the newspaper. Or be harassed by paparazzi trying hunting for cheap sensation. I saw desperation in their eyes, knowing what is at the end of this path. And it was then, when I felt good to be anonymous. Where I can have a dreadful day, even cry and nobody cares, nobody judges me, nobody outside my close family notice it. I can hide in the shadows and no one will come and hunt me with the light. While each of their steps, actions, moments were at the spotlight. I can not image what additional pressure they felt, what burden they needed to carry, and all just because they were famous. I no longer felt bad for having to share a room with others, and thanks to that, we met wonderful people, had a chance to talk to each other, cheer each other up. While they were left just for themselves, alone in that room, as no one dared to talk to them.

Later in the week I tried to make an eye contact with them, just to share a smile. Just to show them that people here are swimming on the same boat. Wish them well, but they avoided any type of interaction besides, please and thank you. And still, there was no situation, where you could feel, that they think of themselves as someone better.

After a while, I was told what it means to have a single room, just for yourself. It is not that you are famous, but a bit more special. Special like everybody else might be some day. Special due to your child soon flight to heaven. And they give you a comfort of spending those few days, that you have left, alone. Give you slight feeling of intimacy, they can provide. Without anybody looking at you, anybody talking to you. Just the closest family, loved ones. This was the day I said to myself that I never want to be that special parent. To have a room just for my family. And it was the time when I prayed for them, so God will give them strength to pass through this miserable moment.

Round Five – Routine

Rapid Coject – cisplatin [C], vincristine [O], carboplatin [J], etoposide [E], and cyclophosphamide [C] – code name we heard constantly for past 5 rounds. While the intention is to quickly attack the enemy, I sometimes wonder if it’s not just a lame joke, which somebody played on us. Hiding under complicated acronym the real meaning, which is nothing more than just – “You will get rapidly bold to impersonate, Lieutenant Theo Kojak. Our role model from the 80s TV series”.  All delivered in eight short, 10 days, but exhausting rounds – A, B, C, B, A, B, C, B.  At the beginning we had our fears, but also high hopes that it will get easier further down the line, while the truth is quite opposite.

Round five, back again to dose A. We knew more less what to expect, since we already went through all the stages and side effects of all those chemo injections. This help us to calm down a bit and slowly get used to our new home, new life. To things, which were terrifying at the beginning, now seen from a bit of a distance as they were becoming our daily routines.

“Hello Mrs. W, how was the night?” Mag wake up to a pleasant voice of the corporal. “Can I have last night fluid balance?”

Mag half-conscious picked up a notebook from the windowsill. It was 5:45 in the morning. “400ml drank and 200ml peed. And he wet the bed in the night.”

“Thank you” Corporal replied and left the room.

 Mag closed her eyes again. Those were these few more minutes of sleep everybody tried to grasp to have a little more rest.

Balance of fluids

From day one, with first dose of chemo injected to your child’s body, you need to keep track of all the fluid that are going in and out. In our case, as Szymek was still a baby that was using diapers, we need to bring from home small kitchen weight and each time he drank anything or peed into the diaper, write down the amount in the notebook. Keep the books like a good accountant. Additionally, any vomiting and diarrhea, which happen often during the injections, were noted down. All to control Szymek’s kidneys and digestive system. Every 6 hours we have a visit from a corporal, who takes down our balance and later reports to our leading captain. In case of any anomalies, which sometimes happened to Szymek too, certain meds are implemented.

“Szymek just vomited again and I did not manage to catch all of it.” Mag welcomed me with words I always hated to hear. “Can you please bring new bed sheets?”

It was devastating, seeing his ghostly pale skin and lack of strength to keep his eyes open. Without saying much, I turned around and went to the small storage room located in the middle of the corridor for fresh bed sheets. Turned the key, left in the lock to allow parents pick fresh bed sheets once the Sergeants are done with their shifts, and looked for fresh covers.  Pillow covers top shelf, children size, quilt and bed sheet in the middle laying right next to each other. There were days when children size was all out and I had to take adult size just to have clean one. Parents knew this room very well, I would say too well.

“Here, I will change it.” I said to Mag coming back to the room. “I will give you Szymek, so to make it quick”. I have picked him up from the bed and placed on Mag’s chest. She was sitting next to his bed on her camp-bed, exhausted to the limits one can take.

“I could not sleep at night, worried that while turning he will wrap the cord around him causing the needle to come out.” Mag read at the beginning of our training program, that it rarely happens causing chemo burns, which are very painful for a child. She tried to minimize Szymon’s suffering as much as possible therefore each time the injections were happening she was in the standby mode ensuring that in case something happens she will intervene immediately.

Those were times when I had to do best not to make any eye contact, especially with Szymek, so they will not see me crying.  I bit my lips, to cause some pain in me, just to take my mind off it.

 “I need to fall asleep for a while, can you please take care of him?” Mag asked when I was putting Szymek back to bed.

“Yes. Rest, I will keep quiet. “

 „BREEEEAAAAKKFAAAST!!!!” Sergeant’s scream spread out thought the corridor walls informing everyone that breakfast awaits in the common kitchen for cadets to pick up.

Art of feeding

From early days, when we slowly started to introduce other foods into Szymon’s diet beside breast milk, we made sure what he eats is healthy. We knew how much food can have impact on your well-being. We were buying ecological vegetables and fruits, straight from the village, and try to avoid anything that had too much of preservatives. Water instead of sweet drinks. In general, tried to protect him as much as we could to ensure we support his healthy growth.

When we entered the 7th floor for the first time, and went to the dining area, we were genuinely shocked. We knew how important is to properly nourish your kinds during the training to give him all the necessary vitamins, so that he can fight back himself the cancer. We knew that low fat diets and no sugar is a key to sabotage the mission. Instead when you looked around most of the plates had French fries, hot dogs, sandwiches with Nutella, sweet yogurt and desert on it. All full of nasty preservatives.

“What ta hack is happening here?” Mag whispered to me. „Do they know how much they are harming those kids by giving them this type of food?”

“Maybe this is what they need to eat during the flight and they are trying to adopt them as early as they could?” I was also confused by what I was seeing.

Soon we realized it’s not their will but reality, which forces those parents to give their loved ones this kind of food. Seeing how dramatically cadets are losing weight, to be as light as possible for the flight, you don’t even think about healthy anymore. You just give them whatever they willing to put in their mouth, just to have something in, hoping he will digest at least part of it, before it will come back. Even Captains were telling parents. “Your child has high potential, soon he will finish the program and fly away. It would be barbaric to take away from him the pleasure of eating junk food, or with all the other suffering he takes forcing him to eat healthy.” And soon we began our battle too. 

Coming back to the routine. When you enter the program, Sergeant, responsible for the nourishment, conducts a survey with you. It is to know if your child needs any special diet, is allergic to anything. She emphasizes the importance of proper feeding, giving you an impression that food here is top level. Soon you realize that this was just a good marketing.

Every morning, round 8 a.m. breakfast is distributed. Plates are nicely laid on the shelf right next to the entrance. Each containing 2-3 slices of bread and cheaply looking sausages, accompanied with small dice of butter. Honestly, I often thought prisoners get better meals then cadets in the facility. For sure tastier and much healthier. And biggest irony of it are candy bars as part of dessert, full of sugar, and given to trainees with cancer. So, when Sergeant called, for most parents it’s just a sign, reminder, that it is time to go to the kitchen and from plastic containers, their brought from home, pick up something eatable for their children. It is common practice for parents to bring their own food to the facility, prepared either by them or grandparents. Once you enter the common kitchen/dining room area right next to it there is a small room, full of those storage containers, where parents prepare these meals.

Once the meal is ready, sandwiches for the breakfast, something more exquisite for lunch, art of feeding begins. Almost all the cadets, during the training, suffer from lack of appetite. Chemo make the food taste like cardboard, plus constant nausea and vomiting is not really helping. Limited resources, you have in CSD, is not helping also to feed your kid properly. From time to time you can see a parent running around the whole facility, asking others if they have certain food, for which their child asked, knowing that if he will manage to get it, there is a chance his kid will eat it.

„Did he eat anything?” I asked Mag when she woke up after a while.

“I tried. No chance. You know, that we need to wait for the injections to finish and antiemetics to start to work.” Mag replied. “He asked for a soup couple of times, but when I came back after heating it up, he just turned his head and said no.”

We tried our best but as we were moving further into the program his appetite was diminishing, slightly coming back once the injections were over, but still far from what he could eat before the program.

Captain’s audit

Round 10 a.m. everyday there was a small Captains checkup round where cadets, or in case of small children, parents were asked how was the night and what is general cadet’s state. Twice a week there was a general round lead by Major, who was having an eye on all the cadets to ensure nothing is happening without her approval. After a while we just waited for it to be over as we finally could start the day. In case of any questions we just went afterwards to our leading captain.

“As we agreed, not matter what are the results you will be able to go home to celebrate properly you 2nd birthday.” Captain Blind welcomed us two days after the chemo injection was done.

“Blood results are stable and not showing any signs of Szymek being ready for the flight anytime soon, so we don’t need you here. Just remember, same as last time, to come each day here for Neupogen shot, we will try again to stimulate those cancer cells to growth faster. Side effects as you know, growth of leucocytes, but let’s hope this will not happen this time”. Relief came, as we knew home is where Szymek feels much better, starts to eat and to rally. For Szymek, as he was already feeling much better, this was a cue to eagerly start packing. “I’m going home!” he stated with confidence and passion in his voice.

“Yes, take care Szymek, and happy birthday!” Captain responded with a smile and left the room. Soon after, with Szymek’s adorable “Bye!” shouted to corporals siting in the central counter, we were heading back home.

Injections

Next day, when most people were starting their lunch, I packed my family into the car and drove to CSD for the shot. Szymek after few corners knew where he was going, and became gloomy.

“We are just going for a short while and coming back home.” Mag tried to cheer him up. “Will you choose a price afterwards?”

Each corporal, to easy up the suffering, had a box with small prizes. After each procedure, child could choose one to cheer him up. Szymek also liked that and after a while he was saying. “Prize! Prize!” There was no claim in his voice, more of reassurance, that since he took the shot without crying much, he can take the prize now.

We put analgesic ointment 15 minutes before on his port to ensure needle will no causes any pain. And head to the room where the corporal from daily center were doing all the procedures. Once the shot was done smile on Szymek’s face was back.

“It did not hurt! It did not hurt! Mommy, it’s over!” He was laughing through tears and I just couldn’t help it, I needed to bite my lips again. The pain was helping me withhold from crying. On the way back, he was full of joy, as we kept our promise, that it will just be a minute and we are going back home. Szymek is unbelievably peaceful through all time. I often cried seeing, what he needs to go though, and I knew well, that he shows me how the real man should take it. This two-year-old boy showed me, grown man, that you may have a bad moment, vomit, etc. but once that is over, smile should be back on your face. No reason to cry, no reason to feel blue. Life is beautiful, life is full of love and why should we not be happy in it.

Routine

Vomiting, dizziness, weakness and powerlessness. Counting all the fluid, ensuring meds are fine, ensuring needle will not pop out, changing the bed sheets, changing diapers, changing the wet and dirty clothes, heat the food, force to drink, force to eat and Neupogen shots for desert. Another test, another needle into his body, sedation, nerve racking waiting for the him to be back, waking up from it and smile is back on his face. This child is blessing from God. His happiness and love is the only reason why we are still alive…please let it last.

Saint’s parade

“I saw him sometimes at night standing right next to Szymon’s bed. He often stroked his head spreading comfort and easing the pain. He never looked at me, as I was not the one for whom he came, but I was always glad that he cares for him, giving the warms and relief, which I could not give…”

First you seek help among the living, from captains to anybody who, without extorting money, is willing to support you. Soon you realize, that nothing what you encounter on your path to full recovery goes without permission from He, who is not bonded by our reality. Bonded by rules, you are restricted with, to have an illusion of stable, predictable nearby future. In short, superpowers, which people don’t have not to cause even more chaos in this world. You start to read about miracles, which are happening all over the world, people who should be long dead in accordance to our medical knowledge, but are still alive. And it gets you thinking. “What can I do, how can I help myself in experiencing God’s mercy on my soul? To whom should I pray to get proper intercession of saints? To be heard.”

You start to look through those stories and try to find which of those saints had the most of those miracles happening, which had the biggest God’s grace and cured people from dread diseases. You look for patterns, which link all those miracles, and hope that if you do the same God’s mercy will come down on you. Quickly you know, on the path of being called saint, you need to be first proclaimed blessed by church. And the whole beatification process needs prove of miracles. This got me thinking, I admit it could be seen as naive thinking, but you will try everything, so I thought maybe if I pray to one of them, he will have the proof of being saint by performing a miracle on my son.

„Alright! This is my final offer! I know you need this as much as I need it. I know you need this for a different reason to mine, but I know it lays in our mutual interests to make sure it happens.” He paused for a second and then rose his finger to the air. “One miracle! One small, or maybe for some of you big, miracle, and we are good. I need it for Szymon to stay on earth and you need proof of your holiness. We all know that without it nobody will believe that you are saint, and we know only saints gets the best seats there. This is my final offer, take it or leave it. Calling once! Calling Twice! Sold! “

Act I

Blessed Martyrs of Peru

Curtains

They were one of those we decided to turn into. It was one of those situation, one could call coincidence, but those who believe would see God’s finger pushing certain people on your path. Soon after we were listed, to our room in the facility, entered a couple with little girl. And with only few words exchanged, we realized that they came from the same city as my wife, and know same people from one of the prayers group my in-laws were going to.  And we did not need to wait long, when one of those people, from that pray group, said that there is no coincidence in life. And since we are both on the same path we should pray to two Polish Franciscan priests who were killed in Peru in recent times. They were proclaimed blessed by Pope Francis, and if God’s will is to make them saints, they need more miracles. I personally was not too convinced about this idea, so soon has forgotten of their existence.

Time passed and we started to have more and more opportunities to go outside the facility. We used those breaks in the training to travel a bit, close to our home, to escape from the city and sight-see close by towns. We also started to visit nearby sanctuaries to pray for God’s mercy. There was one not far from our home, that for some reason we preferred most. We heard about couple of strange stories that happen there, people got cured from disease when praying to Holy Mary for Her intercession. Church was beautifully, with huge figure of Mary in the center, right behind the altar. You could sense that there is something special there. It was the same place where saint Maximilian Kolbe was living before he was sent to Nazi camps and died giving his life for other man, who was sentenced to death. We thought that it will be an excellent idea if we ask those monks to conduct a mass to cure Szymon. Place where you could order a mass was just next to the church. There was a small booth with priest siting inside.

“Wouldn’t you like to have a yearly mass?” He asked.

“I am not sure if we have enough money for that.” We replied we a bit of hesitation in our voice.

 “Money is the last thing you should worry about.” He replied and asked. “What is your child’s name?”

„Szymon. Please pray for his health, and help in sabotaging his training.”

 Priest stopped writing for a second, looked up and ask us. “What is he training for?”

„He has a large tumor on his adrenal gland, making him unique and qualifying for a space program where they trained children to fly to heaven.”

Priest paused again for a second and grabbed from his pocketed small, foiled picture and handed to us. Out of the whole pantheon of saints he gave as picture with relics of Blessed Martyrs of Peru and said. “Please take it, these are third degree relics of two blessed Polish priests who were killed in Peru. You have huge drama in your family therefore please pray to them and maybe they can help you on your way.”

Tears came to our eyes, from shock and emotions. It was unexpected, very touching gesture, and clear sign from God that we should, at least, try to pray for his mercy with intercession of those two priests.

All we could say was “Thank you.” We turn around and started to cry like little children.

End of Act I

Curtains