It’s odd how distinct and vivid the events surrounding a child’s death become when you have moved from that time… It’s been three years since I lost my little Kierra…at 14 months old…barely enough time to even begin to open her eyes to the wonders of this earth and the love that was shared by her family. Yes, her family her whole family….You see, Kierra was my grand daughter….I would have to say a very special grand daughter. She came from a long line of firsts….4 generations of first born daughters and grand daughters…a serious task and legacy for such a little person. But she handled the task with the ease and strength of champion.
I remember the moment that I got the call that Kierra was being transported to the emergency room at the trauma center where I work…! It’s odd, but the immediate thought that ripped through my mind like a bolt of lightening was “I need to hurry, my daughter Amanda is going to need me!”
When I arrived in the emergency department I found my daughter sitting motionless on the couch eyes red with tears and pain….and a cold steel knife slid through my heart….my baby is in pain….! I held her and kissed her cheek and said “honey, everything’s going to be okay, I’m here, and we’ll get this all taken care of” Little did I know at that time that all of the “mother” in me would never be able to fix the hurt or the pain, or repair the damage to that dear sweet baby lying in the next room.
I spoke with the doctors and the nursing staff who were friends of mine and learned the gravity of the situation. I couldn’t tell Amanda… because she needed to have the “hope” that I could infuse in her at least for the moment. HOPE…something that I needed to provide to hold my family together through this quagmire of pain, HOPE, something that I couldn’t afford to hold for myself…!
The next two days were like something out of the “Rocky Mountain Horror Show”…the arrest of the day care provider, the surgery, the hours and hours and hours of waiting, phone calls, friends, family from far away all needing the information and news….! Amanda was lost in her grief and things were now beginning to look totally grim. Someone had to be there “for the family” coordinating, organizing, making sure that no one was offended by the interactions of the immediate environment. That someone was “Grandma” Nana as I am referred to by my children and now 4 grand children. Nana would hold it together…Amanda depended on me to do that as she had depended on me to hold things together all of her short 23 years of life. But Nana couldn’t cry…there wasn’t time…there were tasks at hand and preparations to be made.
Amanda and I talked until long hours of the night there in the Pediatric ICU waiting room…we discussed her feelings of guilt for having put Kierra in child care, we discussed her fears of a child without function should Kierra survive the injuries, we talked about the good times we had experienced with our sweet Kierra and we talked about Amanda’s fears regarding Kierra’s last moments before her skull was crushed. Was she afraid, was she in pain…How does a mother tell her daughter? Ease her fears and comfort her in a time such as this…? I would hold her and rock her almost as if she were once again a small child…and tell her…Kierra was protected by angels my dear…held close to her guardian angels breast…as I hold you… But Nana couldn’t cry!
Then when the final word came that Kierra was brain dead…once again, there were decisions…many many decisions…donate organs, funeral arrangements, receptions, flowers…on and on and on and on…A woman should never have to bury her child. She shouldn’t be faced with making “arrangements”. So, once again, Nana couldn’t cry…..it was essential to “hold the family” together.
I secured a safe place for my Amanda and her husband that afternoon before Kierra went to the OR to donate organs….I didn’t want her going home to that lonely little apartment with all of Kierra’s toys….meeting her at the door. I then waited with my mother…Kierra’s great grandmother until the organ donation team arrived…and walked with our little angel to the elevator…I promised her then, that her Nana would do everything in her power to ever prevent this from happening to another child.
As the elevator doors closed….and that cold steel knife twisted in my heart….the pent up tears of 3 days poured forth….and would not stop…..NOW Nana could cry… and cry she did! She cried for her lost grandchild, she cried for the lost legacy, and the great grandchildren she would never see…she cried for the pain of her daughter and she cried for the trauma that this death had inflicted on her family.
Grandparents are a special gift that God gives to children….and the children know it…with all the love they hold in their hearts for their parents…there is special love in their hearts for their grandparents…..We as grandparents hold an unending volume of love…and our grandchildren become the receivers of the deepest of that love.
When our grandchildren are hurt or die….a huge part of us dies with them…a piece dies for them and a bigger piece dies for our children. Our belief is that we were put here to care for and protect our children and the death of a grandchild places a deep seated guilt in our hearts that we failed in our task…we couldn’t do it…we couldn’t do enough.
Although on a cognitive level we know that there was nothing more that we could have conceivably done, our hearts and souls forever hold the question… and We CRY.
To all of the grandparents in our group I extend you a very very warm grandparents day salutation….and leave with you the knowledge that your little grand angels are there watching over you…and smiling…”That’s my Nana…and she loves me”…!
Pamela S. Rowse, R.N., Grandmother
Murdered 3/5/97 – by her licensed day care provider
Founder, The Kierra Harrison Foundation for Child Care Safety
Pamela is currently the Chapter President for My Parents are Survivors, an online resource for any family member who has experienced the death of a child. She is also a member of the advisory board for the National Shaken Baby Alliance