Trigger warning: Teenage death/Suicide
By Juanita Samuels
“Do you believe in rainbows?
Of course, you do. Who doesn’t believe in the promise painted in the sky? I used to believe in rainbows too. It feels so long ago now…”
1 Year ago
No, no, it’s not true! Those words kept refraining in my head.
Dear Lord, I’ll do anything if you will just let this go away. Please, please, please.
I looked up at the clock hanging on the wall filled with posters reading, ‘Remember to wash your hands’ and ‘Decide to immunise your child today and save their life.’ It has been three hours of being trapped in the waiting room area. How long still? I already know every crack in this hall, and every black scrape on the blue vinyl floor. The vending machine’s light was broken, and there was a bag of chips that got stuck in the third row on the right. There was a glass window looking over into the great hall of the hospital. Old magazines were scattered on a small table at the end of a row of seats. Some of the front pages of the magazines were missing. There were no plants in the waiting area. Should there not be any plants? A form of life. The hope-giving kind. I looked again down the hall where it split up into the X-ray and then the Operating Department of the hospital. People were always moving through those doors.
Please, Lord, I promise I will even forgive my sister that I haven’t spoken to in seven years. I’ll go to her even when I must plead with her to make amends. We argued years ago about something trivial, and I couldn’t even remember how it started. It ended with us both swearing never to speak to each other again.
Please, Lord, let him live. My phone vibrates in my bag. One would think that the battery would be dead by now. Dead. How could this happen? Death is so final. Young people of fifteen should not die. They should enjoy life. They should go to concerts. They should…live.
Is he blaming me? Greg has been pacing up and down the corridor. His hands were cradling his neck. His greying hair seemed a mess from pushing his hands through it while talking to people on the phone. He called Zelda. Our daughter, she was now in her first year of University. Living in a flat in Auckland, a few hours’ drives away. She ought to be here soon. Greg hasn’t spoken much except on his phone. He talks to other people. He hasn’t spoken a word to me. Is he blaming me? He should. I am. It was my fault, after all. I should have known better. It was my own belief in life. Believe that you should live your life to the full. You only have one, after all. It was me who gave in. Always me giving in on demands. Greg called it spoiling. He tells me so every time, to stop spoiling them. Spoiling them? I would give my life for them. I would switch places with Doughy in a heartbeat.
Lord, please help us. I will do anything, Lord. Anything. My hands felt wet. I don’t even realise that I’ve been crying again. It has been hours since we were woken by the sound of loud banging on our front door. Looking at the clock, I felt confused. Who could be disturbing us so early in the morning? Greg got up throwing his black gown on as he moved to the front door. Opening the door to any parent worst fear. The police officer was very polite and empathetic. ‘Mr and Mrs Morgan?’ He looked at us inquiringly. When Greg nodded, he continued. ‘I’m afraid that I’m the bearer of bad news. Your son Douglas Morgan has been in a motor vehicle accident. Both the boys were intoxicated.’ The police officer told us, ‘You are requested to go to the hospital immediately.’ All I could remember of the talk was the refrain in my head. They’re at the wrong house. I kept telling myself. My baby was supposed to be at his friend’s house, most likely still playing games.
When they get together like this, they will play games for hours. Dough was nagging for weeks now to go for a sleepover. His friend Mickey has acquired the latest PS4 game. They had to try it out. Why would they be in a car accident? It wasn’t true. It can’t be.
Them claiming Mickey didn’t make it. Mickey, with his easy smile. His blond curls that can’t be ruled by any comb. He had an outgoing temperament. They were inseparable from the moment they met in kindy. He was the one to encourage Dough to participate in sports, go surfing and skateboarding. He was a good influence on Dough. I should call Tanya. What do I say? I picked up my phone for the hundredth time and saw the blue light flashing at me. I couldn’t deal with this right now. I’m so over the messages of hope reading: ‘Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer’. My little Doughy has been seriously injured. Don’t they understand?
I can’t remember anything after hearing the news. My head was still hazy. When we reached the hospital, we were taken to a small cubicle. The doctor got straight to the point. Douglas was in critical condition. He fractured both his legs, and he has internal bleeding in his abdomen. They would have to operate. The doctor showed us the X-rays already taken—the scan plates shining on the white lit board. The doctor was pointing at the fractures as if we couldn’t see it for ourselves, explaining the procedure to us. The pens and plates that they’re going to use. Showing where the abdomen bleeding came from—giving me the forms to complete. I still don’t know what I wrote on the documents. Did I remember to write about his beestings allergy? I can’t remember.
We finally got to see him before they pushed him through to the theatre—the bags of fluids hanging on the drip stands, with machines beeping on different time frequencies. People were rushing about us. The smell of old blood and disinfected nauseating me. He opened his bloodshot eyes, looking at me. ‘Sorry mum.’ His voice was sounding hoarse. I held on to his bloodied hand, touching the side of his face, trying not to touch the lacerations. His neck and head are being held still in an orange neckbrace and white Velcro. ‘That’s okay, honey. Mummy loves you. They’re going to operate and fix you up. When you’re better, we’ll take you home. You must just stay strong and help fight with the doctors. All will be over soon then you can come home. I promise. Dad and I will be here. I promise I will never leave you.’ Greg pushed passed me, holding Dough’s face in his hands.
I stepped back, glancing around the room. My eyes got ensnared by the droplet forming, then being captured within the chamber. Rainbows were shining through the droplet—a sign of hope. I can’t help but keep staring at the process of the droplets filling the tube that is connected to his arm. I was mesmerised by the constancy of the beeps and burps of the machines, which allowed the steadiness. The nurse was coming into the room to check if all was fine, turning the bag, making her notes on the clipboard. She disappeared down the hall, leaving me watching the process. The same hallway, they pushed him down a few moments later.
I remember when Douglas was born, he was so small. He was born prematurely, and the delivery had complications. It was a day later that I first got to see him. He was such a blessing. He held my index finger in his small fist. I promised him, ‘I will always be there for you. I will always keep you safe. I promise.’
“You see, I used to believe that rainbows are filled with promises. Promises, I then believed was no more than an illusion. You try and touch a rainbow your hand would slide through it. Rainbows are the biggest illusion.”
Greg came and sat next to me. He took my left hand in his. His eyes were red and heaved. He cleared his throat. ‘I just spoke to John. Tanya is in a state. They had to give her a sedative. He told me that it was Mickey who was driving. They both got hold of alcohol in the dining room cabinet. They drank most of the heavier drinks. They snuck out at around one this morning. They stole Tanya’s car. Mickey drove to fast and lost control of the vehicle as it was going around the bend. They went off the road and rolled down an embankment. The car is a total right off. A guy driving behind them saw the accident happen. He called the emergency services. Mickey was dead at the scene. John told me to tell you that he will be praying for us.’
I looked Greg in his eyes. I never noticed the deep worry lines on his forehead before. The big groves that I wish to flatten out with my fingers. I used to massage the worries away. What happened to our promises. We barely speak to each other anymore. Dinner in front of the TV then separating to our own different thoughts. We used to promise to always listen to each other. At all times we would be there for each other. His life drifted so far away from me. It was like a stranger holding my hand playing with the diamond of our engagement ring, containing more rainbows of promises. It lost its original sparkle. It was like the story that now was my life.
Zelda stormed into the waiting room and was caught straight in Greg’s embrace. ‘I came as soon as I could. How is he? Have you heard anything yet?’ Her voice was sounding out of breath. Harsh against the silence. I felt too numb to get up. The numbness spread to my very soul, leaving an emptiness.
The theatre doors opened. The doctor we saw earlier came through the doors. His eyes were focussed on the floor. He entered the waiting room. It felts as if he was dragging the darkness with him. Greg walked closer.
“That was why I desired the night. The darkness doesn’t lie. Nighttime doesn’t allow promises set in rainbows.”
I always thought the police knocking on my door telling me that something terrible has happened would be the worst thing. I must be honest that I don’t remember much after hearing the news. I couldn’t even recall the words, the doctor used. Just the shaking of his head. Him patting Greg on his shoulder and Greg falling to his knees. The scream of agony tearing through the waiting room. Zelda was bending next to him, comforting him. I just sat there, staring dry-eyed. Empty. The worst for me was returning home with broken promises.
I stared at the wallpaper that was peeling of the wall in the family room. There were stains on the carpet. The pastor’s voice droned on reciting to us, ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.’ It was one full week later.
At first glance, everything in the house appeared neat, but I knew that I haven’t hoovered behind the furniture in weeks. Nobody noticed. Nobody cared. They all stood there with their little plates of snacks, glancing at me. John was holding his arm around Tanya for support. Her head was resting on his shoulder. Greg and Zelda were speaking to a few people outside. What did the people expect of me? Everyone seemed to be avoiding the topic of why they were there. They all slowly leave giving me a hesitant hug, like I would break or something. Only Tanya embraced me exclaiming, ‘What are we going to do without them? I miss them so.’
That evening I switch on the kettle to boil, for the second time. The dishes were all stacked in the basin ready to be washed, all except Greg’s. Greg left his plate and cup there on the table in expectation for me to remove it. He parted without a backwards glance. I can’t remember his voice any more. His voice the last few years used to drive me nuts, now I wish that he would just say something. I peered out of the kitchen window and wondered how it would feel just to leave. Walk out of the door, down the cracked footpath opening to the broken gate. Walking down the street, then the next. Without a backwards glance. I knew it was all wishful thinking. I looked down at my teacup. The teabag had a tear, and some of the dry leaves were drifting on the freshly made tea. My hand was shaking as I picked it up. I took a sip not minding the leaves tickling my lip.
I placed the laptop on the table seeing at least ten new unopened emails. My leave application has been approved., with their sympathy wishes. I scan through the mail without paying too much attention. Delete. My doctor’s name registered as the next email. My hand hesitated over the mouse before clicking it to open the mail. “You need to come in and see the doctor to discuss the results of your liver function tests.” I knew what the results were before the doctor could verify it. I stare at the email before deleting that too. A few promotional emails… delete. Then one from the school. It was posted two weeks ago. The school notified me that my son had missed some of his classes. He didn’t pass his assessment on his maths. If he wants to re-sit the assessment, I could email the deputy principal. Delete.
Zelda came into the kitchen, passing by the table. ‘Why do you always act as if you don’t care?’ She cried scornfully. ‘Even at the funeral, you’re so cold. You aren’t even supporting dad or me. You just go on with life as if nothing has happened. I haven’t even seen you cry, once. Not even once!’
I stared back at her. Her hair was the same light brown colour as her brother. No more. Nothing was the same. I could only look at her in silence. What could I say to defend myself? If it weren’t for me, always giving in, Douglas would still be alive. I wondered a strange thought, looking down at the laptop. If I was an email, would they press the delete key? Delete. I looked back up into her eyes, staring back disappointedly. She turned away from me, shaking her head.
Later that night, I stared into the mirror. I felt drained. There were crows feet around my eyes and deep grooves on the side of my mouth looking more pronounced tonight. My cheekbones accentuated my face giving it a sharper look. My mouth turned down in the corners. I can’t remember how to drag them up no more. I touch the photo that was taken three years ago. It was captured on Paradise Island with the beautiful white beach and turquoise ocean as a backdrop. Standing with my arm around Douglas and holding Greg’s hand. Zelda was making a silly face at the camera. Mickey was holding a surfboard between him and Douglas. John couldn’t come with us on vacation. So, Tanya took the photo. We were all smiling at the camera, how the times have changed?
I looked down at my left hand. The hand was bony, and the veins were protruding. The ring on my ring finger seems too big to be kept there—the diamond appearing dim in the light. I took the ring of placing it in my small jewellery box. My whole body felt numb. I picked up the bottle of anxiety medication and shook a pill into my hand. I stared at it for a while. It looked lonely there, by itself. I shook the rest of the bottle into my hand, swallowing it quickly before I got to change my mind. I was placing the wine glass down and pouring me some more. I listened to the hushed tones of Greg and Zelda voices down the hall. They don’t care… I don’t exist any more.
“But let me tell you something else about rainbows. You cannot see them in the darkness. You cannot see them whenever you want to look at them. You cannot see them during a storm. You can only see rainbows after a storm. They are a promise, after all.
You see, God has remembered his children. I just didn’t see it before. I only saw the truth three months ago sitting staring at me in a simple word. My whole life fell apart after my son’s death. My husband separated from me, leaving me with more broken promises. My daughter didn’t want anything to do with me. I pushed everyone who wanted to show that they cared away. I spend most of my nights on Dough’s bed, having stupor dreams of people turning away.
Until, one day, I saw this one word. ‘Beloved.’ The word was spelt with groves. It wasn’t an evenly carved grove. You could see that it was carved in the granite stone set in permanence. The rain was glazing the stone, giving it a life of its own. I bawled, ‘A loving God would not destroy a young child! A loving God… He would not leave us without hope. A loving God would have listened to my pleas.’ I could not bring myself to ask why. I hate people’s response to it. The ‘it was God’s will’ or ‘there is a plan in everything; it is not for us to know and ask.’ God never promised that there would be no storms. He just gave us hope that He would always be there for us to help us through.
To help us heal. It was in the word love, after all, as my finger trailed it. I had so much to learn. I had to forgive. I had to forgive Douglas and Mickey. I had to forgive all the people around me who did not understand. Most of all, I had to forgive myself. In the words of the author CS Lewis, ‘You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.’Hi everyone, my name is Letitia Morgan, and I am an alcoholic, and this is my ninety-second day of being sober.”
Bible, New International Version. “Proverbs.” Bible, Life Application Study. New International Version. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1988. 988. Bible Text.
Bible, New International Version. “The Life Application Study Bible.” Version, New International. Romans. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1988. 1899. Bible text.