In a minute...
It was 11:15.
Carly watched her mom leave.
Mom was going to get one of the doctors, because Carly was hungry again.
Carly was always hungry these days.
Carly watched her mom leave, her breath sighing in and out through the ventilator. It was matched by the sound of the beeping heart rate monitor.
Slow. Too slow.
Carly was sick. Her Mom and Dad never told her she was sick, but Carly was 8. She knew how it worked. She knew healthy kids didn't eat soggy food and listen to the hiss and beep of machinery all day. She knew that healthy kids didn't hide inside a white room all day. Healthy kids got to go and play with their friends, and argue with their parents. Carly couldn't argue with her parents. Her voice wasn't strong enough to get above a whisper. Carly couldn't go out and play. She was too contagious.
Contagious. A big word. Too big for a little girl.
Carly watched her mom leave, watched the door open and then shut. She watched her mom leave, and was sad that she could not.
Carly was tired. Tired and hungry. And she felt her eyes close. It would just be a minute. Then Mom would be back with food and Carly could carefully eat it, being careful not to trigger a coughing spell.
Coronavirus. That was another long word that Carly knew. She heard the doctors say it. She heard them tell her Mom that she wasn't supposed to see Carly, but they gave up trying. Mom wouldn't leave Carly.
Yet, as Carly fell asleep, her mom was gone.
Only for a minute.
In Carly's dream, she met an angel.
"Hello, Carly." said the angel with a wise, kind face. "Do you want to fly?"
In the dream, Carly didn't have a ventilator. She wasn't hungry, or tired.
And so she said "Mom says I shouldn't go with strangers."
"Oh, but I'm not a stranger. I've been with you your whole life."
"Well then why haven't I seen you?"
"It's against the rules. But Carly, you have to come with me."
"Can I wake up? Just for a second? I want to ask my mom if it's okay."
The angel sighed, and then Carly woke up.
"Mom," she choked out. "Mom? The angel wants to take me with him. Can I go? Is it okay?"
But Carly's mom was getting Carly's food.
Carly had to make her own decision.
And Carly fell back asleep, and went back to the dream.
"Did you get an answer?"
"No," Carly said sadly.
"I can't give you any more time. You understand."
Carly did not understand. But she looked up at the angel.
"Will it be okay? Tell me it's okay."
"It's okay," said the angel. "It's better for everyone this way."
"Well, okay," Carly said. "If you say it's okay, it must be."
And so Carly flew with the angel.
"I only left her for a minute!" The hysterical mom sobbed. "She can't be gone. There must be some mistake. Please, doctor. It was just a minute!"
The doctors were too busy to hear the mom's pleas.
They write the time of death.
It was 11:16.