There weren't any blaring sirens, no one was screaming...and while ambulance lights were flashing, it was mid-morning so they didn't cast any significant light into my bathroom window.
And yet, for some reason, I put down my toothbrush, moved my hand toward the blind and separated the slats...
The moment I saw the ambulance I ran through my master bedroom, the hallway, out the front door and across the lawn. I remember thinking the late December grass was cold and wet on my bare feet.
Twenty yards later I was sprinting up the concrete, noticing the ambulance still parked at the end of the drive in my peripheral view. Where were the paramedics and why weren't they getting out of the vehicle?!
As I ran toward the house, my neighbor appeared through the back door. She was carrying a child [wrapped in a towel] in her arms. She was running so fast I didn't know which of her children it was.
Her expression was a mix of shock and deep pain. She was half screaming, half praying as she whizzed past me, I am certain she had no idea I was even there.
Three strides later I reached the top of the drive and was immediately met by her four oldest children whom had followed their mother outside with confused expressions on their little faces. William*, the oldest, was just seven at the time.
It only took my brain a nano-second to realize it was the baby she was holding. A limp noodle when she'd passed me in her mother's arms, Megan was just ten months old.
These kids don't need to see any more, my brain commanded, get them back in the house and divert their attention.
I immediately asked William where his playroom was. Although I knew the family fairly well, I hadn't been inside of their home in the nine months they had lived next door to us. Together we turned around, entered the house, and climbed the stairs to their playroom. The group appeared willing to be redirected.
Every few minutes Brynn, the youngest in the room at age two, would say, "Baba boo, baba boo. Is baba kay?" At first I couldn't figure out what she was trying to ask me, then it dawned on me....she was saying, "Baby's blue, baby's blue. Is the baby okay?" Not wanting to give any false hope, I told her that her mom was getting baby the care she needed.
The minutes dragged on, and while on the outside I was cheerful and engaged with the kids as they showed me their favorite toys, my mind and heart continually prayed for that baby girl and her mom. Please God, save Megan and give Mary the strength she needs to get through this!
Megan did not make it, although she fought hard for a few days at Children's before she passed on to Heaven.
Her funeral was difficult, no one wants to attend the service of one whose casket is so tiny. Mary and her husband were strong, wrapped tight in the blanket of their Catholic faith, which is what they clung to in order to survive Megan's death.
In the weeks that followed, things were understandably quiet next door as extended family came and went, helping the six wrestle their initial grief. Flowers, balloons, and stuffed animals were left by the roadside commemorating the baby girl who was lost so suddenly.
One evening, about two weeks after Megan passed away, our phone rang. I saw it was Mary's number on the caller I.D.
I briefly hesitated before answering.
Mary was on the other end of the line and wanted to thank me for helping out with the kids the morning of the accident. She also said she felt compelled to tell me every detail of the morning Megan drown in the tub. I told Mary it wasn't necessary, she did not owe me any explanation. I could tell she really wanted to talk though, so I listened as, painfully, she recounted the events of that fateful morning.
Mary left Megan very briefly while she went to attend to the cleaning lady who had hurt her back and called for her help from the next room. Mary said she was away from the tub for less than two minutes. She also said she wanted me to understand it was an accident, she had never left the baby alone in the tub before...Megan was sitting in her tub ring happily playing when she left the room.
She was adamant I understand she was not a negligent mother.
I told her I understood and would never think that of her. For who am I to judge someone when I have, on occasion, left my own children in a potentially precarious situation. I couldn't tell her I'd never run out of the room quickly to help another child, or to fetch a diaper when my seemingly safe baby was sitting in just four inches of water.
There was no way in hell I could cast that stone.
Mary was convinced it was the devil who swooped in and took the opportunity to steal her baby in that two minute time period. To be completely honest, although I am a practicing Catholic myself, I am not 100% sure there is a devil...I am more inclined to believe that the choices we make with our free will sometimes lead us into situations we would never willingly choose, but whose outcomes we must find a way to live with.
Who among us has never thought, "wow that could have gone badly, I probably shouldn't have done that" in their lives??
Certainly not I, which is precisely why I make every effort not to judge other people's choices.
*While this is a true story, the names have been changed.