Author: Mike Maples

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Love Letter

I have wanted to write to you for a few weeks now, but couldn't really figure out the right words to say to you. You are the only woman that I have ever loved, but have never met. I had never seen a woman as beautiful as you are, and the only picture I ever saw of you was on an ultrasound.

Now, I hope that I have found the right words for you.

To my love:

Your name is Mila. That was the name that your mother and I chose on a whim, and it describes you perfectly; beautiful in your simplicity, exotic in your potential. From the time we heard your heart beating for the first time on the ultrasound, I was enamored by you, my daughter. I would infrequently put my hand on your mom's stomach to feel you. You were not as energetic as your older brother was when he was there, but I knew that was because you were different. You were simple, quiet.

It was not until you were nearly five months along inside your mother that the doctor found out how special your heart was. Multiple tests would confirm that your heart, the heart that we gave you, was not complete. Your poor, beautiful heart would not be enough to sustain you and give you the life that you deserved so much. Your mom and I were faced with the fact that your chances of survival were very low. If you did survive birth and your first year, then the life you would have would be sheltered, stunted, painful, and ultimately unfit for a girl as beautiful and important as you. The doctors explained to us over and over again that these things happen sometimes, and that is wasn't our fault. The tests showed us that it was not our genetics that caused this problem for you. But as your parents, as the people responsible for creating you, we feel utterly responsible. As your father, the one person tasked with protecting you from the world, I was immediately devastated by my helplessness. I wanted to pull the heart from my own chest and give it to you. I still do.

We were faced with the decision to roll the dice on your survival, knowing full well that the best outcome would merely be survival. You may not have had all of your cognitive functions. You may not live to be a teenager. You may not develop correctly. You certainly would not survive unless you had a heart transplant, and that comes with an entirely new set of limitations and dangers. We cried until our eyes were paralyzed in fixed agony. We tore and lashed the world with our anger and grief. We sat in long, unbroken silences. Ultimately, we made the excruciating decision to offer you a painless, humane transition into the ether.

As a parent, the knife wound that is choosing between ending your child's life before it has even started or forcing them to go through immeasurable misery and suffering is too much to bear. As much as I wanted to hold you in my arms and rip the world in half for having done this to you, we knew that the pain you would be immersed in upon birth and in the subsequent months or years that you held on would not serve you. It would be for our benefit, to touch you and hold you and be with you. I am not sure what kind of father I am, but I am not the kind of father that could watch you go through such torment. I have watched countless people die in my years in health care. I have watched many families arrogantly hope for a miracle, only to be crushed under the weight of medical certainties. I cannot bear the thought of you, my beautiful Mila, with the tubes running in and out of you, the dried tear trails on your cheeks from the pain and fear exacted upon you, and the flickering and eventual extinguishing of the light in your eyes. The undeserved punishment of life is beneath you, and the ramifications of shielding you from this are the weight that your mother and I will carry with us for eternity.

We did not know how to explain what happened to your big brother, who was very much looking forward to you, his baby sister, long before he knew that you would even be a girl. We changed the subject when this came up, turning our heads so that he would not see us cry. Our nanny simply told him that his baby sister is an angel in heaven now, watching over him and all of us. He is too young to know the gravity of such an unbelievable circumstance.

Sometimes, he'll see a baby on TV or at the park, and he will casually mention that you, his beautiful baby sister, is an angel in heaven. I am glad that he cannot hear my heartbreaking when he says that. There was a time last week where he could see something in my face and he came to me, unsolicited, and hugged me with his short three-year-old arms for a long time without words. Sometimes, he will say that you are a ninja in heaven. He gets those words confused sometimes. You would laugh at him so much. He loves you just as much as we do.

Mila, I wanted to write this note to you to say that I am sorry, for whatever it is worth. I am sorry that this happened to you. I am sorry that I could not save you. I am sorry that I could not prevent this from happening to you. I feel gutted whenever I think about you and how special you are. I am so sorry for your mother, who had to go through so much pain in all of it's forms, to bring you peace. I know that she would go through a thousand times more pain just to have you back with us again.

I will never get to know the little girl that holds daddy's hand. I will never talk to you about what boys think about, or teach you how to ride a bike, or help you with your homework, or teach you how to drive, or comfort you through your first heartbreak. There may be another little girl in the future that calls me daddy, but I will never hear your fascinating voice that never got a chance to say a word. To say "daddy."

I fell in love with a woman so much that I could not wait to walk her down the aisle. Not as her husband, but as her father. I wanted that dance with you, Mila, and to cry as I gave you away to a good man who will look after you when I am gone. I hate myself for letting you pass away before I did.

Mila, I am so sorry that you will only be fully realized in my dreams. I cry at some point every day when I think of you, and I don't know when that will go away. I do want you to know that even when the crying stops, the thought of you will not diminish. You will always be my daughter. My beloved daughter.

You are a good girl that never got a chance to be good. You are a quiet and funny little girl playing at the park with your big brother. You are a sympathetic teen with lots of friends and the whole world within your grasp. You are an intelligent young woman and beautiful like your mother. You are a good mother and a professional career woman. You are creative and artistic, and you could always make me laugh. You have a strong heart; the kind of strength that does not show up on any diagnostic test. And before all of that, you are a beautiful little baby girl.

You have a family that loves you very much, no matter where you are now. We will never forget you and all that you mean to us. I have never touched you, yet I have never had the thought of someone cut so deeply into me. And I will gladly keep it, that pain, because it is all I will ever have of you.

Your mommy, daddy, and big brother give you all of our love and wish you safe travels throughout the other side. I don't know if there is an afterlife, much less what it might be like. But I do hope that if you are there, one day I will be able to hold hands with my Mila, daddy's little ninja. You were given only half a heart when you were brought to this world, but you took all of mine when you left it.

With my love and all of me,


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