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  • Writer's pictureStacie Eirich

Our Hearts a Chrysalis


 

Wake to your voice saying “Mama, Mama”, to your slender arm 

reaching inside the blankets, body shivering in cold gray light. 


Wake to you slipping in beside me, telling me your head aches 

that the dizziness has returned. 


Wake to your touch curling against me, to the soft, dark fuzz 

atop your head, to you folding beneath my arms. 


Feel the pulse of your heartbeat in mine, our breath rising and falling, 

my cheek resting against the nape of your neck. 


Feel the flutter of your body against the cold, our bones shivering 

into the warmth of each other like caterpillars wrapping themselves into cocoons. 


Feel the warmth of time unspooling itself around us, our skin 

spinning slower, wider, deeper until the whirl is quieted. 


Listen to the shush of breeze outside, to the way light 

plays on the windows, stretching to meet our fingers. 


Listen to the rustle of the blankets, to the movement 

of your long limbs stretching out beyond mine. 


Listen to your voice assuring me “I’m alright now, Mama,” to how you capture 

and reflect the light, to your wings unfurling from your chrysalis, to the way you rise. 


Copyright @Stacie Eirich February 19, 2024

 

For most of the last year, I shared a room — and sometimes a bed — with my child. It was necessary to be as close as possible in order to administer medicines needed throughout the night, to help carry heavy bags of IV fluids, and to help with balance and safety in the bathroom.  It also became a comfort for both of us to have one another within arms reach, for the moments when words wouldn’t come — or when words weren’t enough. 


Three months after coming home, we still end up in bed together sometimes. Often, those moments are like the one I described in this poem — a morning when the side effects of treatment send my child to me, thrown off balance by the whirl and ache in their head. We have learned that the best thing to do is to lay down together, hold each other and breathe through it; the dizziness and small headache passes in the space of several minutes. We know recovery will come, and within the hour we are able to rise. Like butterflies, we shrug off our cocoons and begin a new day. 


The dizzy spells, small headaches, moments of imbalance or hard-to-compose-thoughts don’t have a specific timetable and we go, sometimes, blessed days without them. What we don’t go without is overwhelming emotions that crash through my child like waves, causing them to be unable to respond in the ways others might understand or expect. These are the moments when I reach for them most, the moments when they need me most. 


But like the chrysalis who transforms into a magnificent butterfly, I know that part of our coming home requires a shift in our relationship. Yes, I’m still a caregiver — but my young cancer warrior and survivor is also a teenager returning to high school. Instead of tackling clinic appointments, procedures and medications — they are navigating the high school halls, geography assignments and art projects, meeting new friends and making plans to rejoin a theater club. In other words, they are busy transforming into the person they want to be. And they are stronger than any other teenager I know. 


This superhuman strength and ability to overcome so much darkness is why I know my child needs me to allow them to stretch beyond my caregiver safety net. It’s why I’m not walking them into school, why I’m encouraging them to try skating and biking and swimming again, and why I can’t wait to be in the audience when they step onstage again amongst friends. 


And yet, even the strongest creatures need a space to seek and feel comfort. Even the most resilient of us need a space to cry, a space to rest, a space to feel solace in another’s arms. Maybe you find that space in the hug of a friend, the embrace of a partner, or the nuzzle of a pet’s soft fur. There is great tenderness in these moments, but also great strength. 


The tenderest and greatest moments of the last three months have been these mornings, where my child and I lay together, hold each other, and wait for the small storms to pass. When the spinning settles and light reaches us, we untwine and become two again, going about our separate paths that briefly converged.


Somehow, we always find one another again — a teenager with wings bright as rainbows, and a mother with wings reflecting the magnificent light my child gives me.  


Thank you for being here, and for reading. If you’d like to listen to this poem and the thoughts that followed it — you can find the audio on my podcast, Poetry for Peace, Season 4: A New Dawn — available on Spotify, Apple, Amazon, Google & more.


In light,

Stacie


*Post Script* My child is a patient at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.  If you’d like to follow our journey to a cure, visit: https://www.caringbridge.org/visit/hopeforsadie


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