Every year I celebrate Laura’s life on the day of her passing. September 13, 1999. I always recall different pieces from those days that seem like so long ago but really feel like moments ago. Today for some reason, I am reliving her last hours and minutes in my mind. It’s strange how I can see things in their minutest details.
We had been up all night going from her bedside to the kitchen and back. My aunt Josephine had arrived earlier in the day and wasn’t allowed to see my daughter for whatever reason so she sat on the staircase leading outside while she waited and prayed; Laura’s mom decided she would control and keep my family out. My mother was on her way from Italy, doing her best to get to Laura before she passed.
I was exhausted but somehow, even though I hadn’t slept in 24 hours, was still fairly alert, most likely driven by adrenalin. Laura’s breathing had become quite shallow and rapid. She had slipped into a coma the day before. We were told what the progression would be and what to expect. Her organs would start shutting down, and her heart would find ways to compensate to keep her alive for as long as possible. We didn’t know how much time we had left, so we stayed by her side. Having one-way conversations with her. Sharing things with her, believing that she could hear us.
I wanted everyone to leave her and I alone. I didn’t want to let go. I wasn’t ready I never would be. I would recall some of our moments together, funny things that happened, and remind her of those times as I sat next to her. Recalling the day she was born and the feeling when I held her for the first time and looking into her eyes. I was a child who now had a child, and my life would never be the same. Never imagining a future without Laura … a thought that would never exist or live in my reality.
Even after divorcing her mom, I lived for Laura. She was daddy’s little girl. She was my little girl. We would dream together of what life would be like when she was old enough to be away from her mother without her permission. Dream and laugh at the trips we would take to Italy and explore together.
A lifetime of memories, some lived, others unrealized, flashed through in seconds while I sat with her wondering if she could hear me and know how my heart ached, wishing and praying I could give my life in her place.
Her heart kept pushing harder in her chest. At one point, it was peaking at over 200 beats per minute. This went on for what seemed hours, but it wasn’t really the case. Or maybe it was. Every second seemed like hours, and hours seemed life seconds.
I went to the kitchen to get some water and was drinking this liquid supplement that was meant to boost the immune system that was in the refrigerator. I had sent it to Laura, hoping it would help, but it was still there. Mostly unused. While I was there, her grandmother came by, and we spoke a few words. Everyone knew what was going to happen, but none of us would utter those words. This is when I glanced up at the clock and noticed the time. It was coming up to 1:14 PM on that Monday afternoon. This feeling struck me, and I knew Laura was about to leave. I heard the message loud and clear. I ran to her side and sat waiting.
I held her hand and waited and waited … and then there was this deafening silence. I could no longer hear her heartbeat. She stopped breathing … and a few seconds later exhaled her last breath of air, like when you let out a long sigh of relief … she had completed her journey and was done.
Her lifeless body lay there as we cried and shed tears, now understanding the reality of the moment of the cards we had been dealt. Our cries were heard through the house, and the cascading effect made its way outdoors where friends and family had been waiting and now hearing that Laura had left … Laura Maria Guzzo was gone.
It was strange as I looked back at that moment when she left; her soul was no longer there. The shell of a beautiful life remained, but the essence of who she was left in that very second, the exact same time she was born, 1:16 PM, 14 years earlier.
Yes, a lifetime relived in 5 minutes over and over and over through the years. Usually, every year I would call my mother, and we would talk about Laura and her life and what my mom could remember. This too is no longer the case. So I find solace in the photos and the memories, and I do have conversations and laugh and cry over the memories of a lifetime.
A very short 14 years, relived in minutes … again. 23 years and always remembering … reliving…