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Remarkable Rachel 1979-2015

April 2, 2015 @ No Comments

Believe it or not, I am a private person. So it takes an extraordinary circumstance for me to type what I am about to. The subject matter is an extraordinary person, our daughter Rachel (first-born of my wife and me).

A parent could not want a better daughter than our Rachel.

A parent could not want a better daughter than our Rachel.

***

Ahh-boo, ahh-boo,
Who loves you
Like your mom and daddy do?

Ahh-boo, ahh-boo,
Who loves you
Like your mom and daddy do?

Who loves you
Like we do?
Who loves Rachel
Through and through?

Ahh-boo, ahh-boo,
Who loves you
Like your mom and daddy do?

Ahh-boo, ahh-boo,
Who loves you
Like your mom and daddy do?

Who loves you
Like we do?
We love Rachel
Through and through!

When Rachel was a baby, that was a tune that I made up and sang as a lullaby to help her fall asleep. Remarkably, it worked. Even more remarkably, my singing voice (if you can call it that) did not damage her ears or anything else physically or psychologically.

Rachel and Tyler at his second birthday party.

Rachel and Tyler at his second birthday party.

She was an infant who did not sleep through the night. After three months of first-time parents who had no clue what to do, there came a 2:30 a.m. without noise. No crying. No whimpering. Not a sound. So naturally I had to go into her room and check in her crib to make sure she was breathing. Sure enough, she was. For two parents at wits end, it was a miracle.

That was 1979. Fast-forward to 2015.

Ahh-boo, ahh-boo,
Who loves you
Like your mom and daddy do?

Ahh-boo, ahh-boo,
Who loves you
Like your mom and daddy do?

Rachel, Brad, Tyler and her stepkids.

Rachel, Brad, Tyler and her stepkids.

Who loves you
Like we do?
Who loves Tyler
Through and through?

Ahh-boo, ahh-boo,
Who loves you
Like your mom and daddy do?

Ahh-boo, ahh-boo,
Who loves you
Like your mom and daddy do?

Who loves you
Like we do?
We love Tyler
Through and through!

That revised tune was one that Rachel, who longed to be a mom but could not conceive because of medical issues, sang to a toddler she and her husband Brad had taken in as foster parents in 2013. A toddler whom they hoped to adopt. Word recently came to the loving couple that the lovable lad soon would be their adopted son.

Rachel and Tyler as cute as can be (March 2015).

Rachel and Tyler as cute as can be (March 2015).

Nothing made Rachel and Brad (not to mention his future grandparents) happier. Although I had initial apprehension about adding another child to her crowded schedule that included being a success in the world of insurance, my brother Rob assured her a couple of months before he died that I would come around. And as usual, Rob was right.

Rachel’s road to happiness had more than its share of obstacles, not the least of which was having Crohn’s Disease (a chronic inflammatory disorder of the gastrointestinal tract). Her disease was diagnosed when she was 9. She ultimately had three major surgeries that left her with an ostomy bag (an external bag to gather her waste matter when her personal plumbing was rerouted). She wore the bag on the lower part of her stomach. If you think that doesn’t sound like fun, you are correct. But Rachel did not let the bag define her or rule her life.

Blackhawks fans Rachel and Brad.

Blackhawks fans Rachel and Brad.

To look at our beautiful daughter, you never would guess she had been ravaged by the disease and treatment for it. Her writing, especially about dealing with Crohn’s, made me at best the second-best writer in the family.

Speaking of family, she became a stepmom — to three boys and a girl — when she married Brad. And those children could not have asked for a better stepmom (and, yes, this is perhaps a biased — although definitely accurate — assessment). Loving those youngsters as if they were her own was the only way Rachel knew how to treat them.

Ahh-boo, ahh-boo,
Who loves you
Like your mom and daddy do?

Ahh-boo, ahh-boo,
Who loves you
Like your mom and daddy do?

Rachel, Brad and Tyler had great fun at Halloween.

Rachel, Brad and Tyler had great fun at Halloween.

Who loves you
Like we do?
Who loves Rachel
Through and through?

Ahh-boo, ahh-boo,
Who loves you
Like your mom and daddy do?

Ahh-boo, ahh-boo,
Who loves you
Like your mom and daddy do?

Who loves you
Like we do?
We love Rachel
Through and through!

Sue and Brad at dinner with Rachel, Tyler and me.

Sue and Brad at dinner with Rachel, Tyler and me.

I cannot tell you how many times I sang that to Rachel and stroked her hair — from infancy to days as an adult in a hospital bed. As much as the tune soothed her, it soothed me as well.

The last time I performed that melody was Wednesday.

Rachel went to the hospital for an ileoscopy, a routine procedure similar to a colonoscopy. The worst part generally is the prep for the procedure. And for Rachel, the prep the night before wasn’t too bad.

I took Rachel to the hospital where we arrived in plenty of time. After visits to her room from assorted medical people and having had tubes put in place on her arm, Rachel was wheeled off to the room where the procedure was to be performed. A smile, blow a kiss and a wave goodbye. See you shortly.

Time passed. The doctor who was to perform the ileoscopy stopped by Rachel’s room and told me, “It doesn’t look good.”

A portrait of Rachel as a child by her brother Mark.

A portrait of Rachel as a child by her brother Mark.

I thought how bad could this scope look? Inflammation perhaps? Worse than that? What? He explained.

He stopped by a little later with the same assessment. A team of doctors was working on resuscitating Rachel. My mind boggled at the notion. My baby — even if she was closing in on her 36th birthday — my beloved baby.

Once more the doctor returned to Rachel’s room to provide clarity.

“You mean she’s dead?” I said.

“Yes,” he replied.

My baby. My sweet baby.

Into the operating room I walked in a state of shock. Seeing Rachel on the operating table surrounded by doctors who parted like the Red Sea (oh, the memories of Passovers past and other joyous occasions, big and small) as I approached. She looked so peaceful, as I had seen her thousands of times when she was sleeping. Except there was no sign of her breathing, no other sign of life. I kissed her forehead, stroked her hair as I had so many times and silently sang “Ah-boo.”

Brad, Rachel, Mark, Sue and Elliott 2009 at Wrigley Field.

Brad, Rachel, Mark, Sue and Elliott 2009 at Wrigley Field.

Nothing made sense, as if the death of someone so special, someone who persevered through so much agony to become such a strong person is supposed to make sense.

When Brad, his mom, my wife Sue and I had gathered in Rachel’s room, doctors explained what they think happened: a blood clot to the lungs. Maybe. As if discerning the cause would bring Rachel back. Maybe an autopsy will reveal something that might help someone else down the road.

The sole certainty was that this fantastic female — as delightful a daughter as a parent could hope for — was dead.

And so, the quartet of mourners visited Rachel in the operating room. One last time to see her.

“Would you like to spend some time alone with her?” a voice — it might have been my wife’s — asked after everyone had the chance to touch her, kiss her, talk to her.

Rachel and friend at a Chicago Blackhawks game.

Rachel and friend at a Chicago Blackhawks game.

“Please,” I said almost inaudibly.

I squeezed her left kneecap, which was covered by blankets. I grasped her left foot and played “This Little Piggie” with her toes as I did when she was quite young and as I do with Tyler nowadays. I patted her head and stroked her hair. As I kissed her head, I sang so quietly one last time:

Ahh-boo, ahh-boo,
Who loves you
Like your mom and daddy do?

Ahh-boo, ahh-boo,
Who loves you
Like your mom and daddy do?

Who loves you
Like we do?
Who loves Rachel
Through and through?

Ahh-boo, ahh-boo,
Who loves you
Like your mom and daddy do?

Ahh-boo, ahh-boo,
Who loves you
Like your mom and daddy do?

Who loves you
Like we do?
We love Rachel
Through and through!

Always.

And as much as any parents can.

***

This is the last post for a while. Maybe longer. Thank you to all who have stopped by this space. If you have someone — and perhaps more than one someone — in your life whom you love, let them know. Let them know today. Sometimes there is no tomorrow.

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© 2017 Elliott Harris.