It was the summer of 2011 when Rose was diagnosed with stage 3 leukemia. Clearly Laura and Steve were devastated. She was only four years old. All the same, they were thankful they’d finally found an answer after over six months of nose bleeds, countless bruises that appeared out of nowhere, the sudden weakness in their normally active little girl, and the significant amount of weight loss despite eating adequately.
The good news was the doctors would begin treatment immediately at no cost to them although they would have emptied out their entire bank account if it meant their little girl would survive.
Unfortunately, there was bad news. They had to wait at least five years until it was safe to say the leukemia had disappeared. It was standard procedure for leukemia.
So, for the next five years they had to live on edge with anxiety, wondering if and praying for their little girl to wake up the next day. It sent both of them into a deep depression they and their loved ones feared they’d never escape.
“Come out tonight, let’s have dinner, get your mind off things,” offered Laura’s good friend and coworker who hadn’t seen her at work for weeks.
“No,” Laura declined. “I need to be with Rose.” The thought of leaving her daughter’s side was enough to send her into a full blown panic.
Steve gave the same refusal to his friends who offered a night out. His daughter was his whole world and he would be absolutely devastated if something happened and he was not there holding her hand. It was as if they both felt that by never leaving Rose’s side, they could prevent the unspeakable. Neither of them could say it but they thought about it each and everyday.
At the same time, they could hardly bare to watch their angel suffer brutally through treatment, the continuous sleepless nights of nausea and sickness. This was just too much for a child to bear. But something even more terrifying happened one night.
Rose had been going through a year of treatment, which began to seem like more torture for her parents than Rose herself who seemed to develop a sort of strength against and immunity to it, treating it like just part of her daily routine, and she said something that scared her parents into not wanting to leave her side even more.
“Mommy, I heard God’s voice. He said I am going to Heaven.”
Laura felt tears trickle out of her eyes and down her cheeks. She shook her head and then embraced her daughter tightly.
“No,” she said. “The doctors are taking care of you. You’re going to stay here with Mommy and Daddy. You’re going to be okay.”
Rose shook her head. “I’m going to Heaven and I’m going to come back a beautiful rose.”
Laura and Steve were confused and heartbroken. Why was their little girl saying these things? She was too young to be talking like that. Yes, they were religious and told Rose about Heaven and God but she shouldn’t be thinking about going to Heaven now. She wasn’t ready. Denial. That was the first stage of their grief. They ignored their daughter’s words. They were nonsense. She wasn’t dying, the cancer was. They even found her dying wish endearing. Of course, her name was Rose so that’s why she wanted to be a rose. But the more she kept talking about Heaven and her request to be turned into a rose, the harder it was to ignore.
Steve went for a drive one night, speeding down the freeway, feeling anything but. He screamed, he screamed at God, wanting to know why He was taking his daughter away.
“You just gave her to me and now You’re taking her away?! Why are You doing this?!
Laura took her anger out on others and her marriage with Steve began to suffer because they were both angry. They needed to be coming together at a time like this but instead they felt isolated, comfortable alone in their grief, selfish and unaware that the other and not to mention their loved ones were all going through the same depression.
More months went by and Rose began to look even more frail, her skin pallid and clammy, which made it all the more real they were losing their little girl and the treatment the doctor’s promised would work clearly was not. Nevertheless, Rose appeared mentally stable, not at all afraid of what awaited her. One night Lara and Steve witnessed her talking to herself, or rather talking to God.
“My parents don’t understand that I have to go with You. That’s where I belong. Can’t You help them understand I’ll still be here? I tried to tell them they have to turn me into a rose and I’ll still be with them.”
After they realized there was no turning back, the bargaining stage began.
“Please let her stay and I promise I’ll quit drinking,” Steve had a bit of a drinking problem that he used to cope with the pain. It left him numb.
Laura promised she would do more charity work and go to church more often.
When their prayers weren’t answered, they went back into depression and Steve did quit drinking because he was already numb from the depression. They were both so numb they couldn’t cry anymore. Their minds had chosen escape from everything.
Before they knew it another year had gone by and by this time the doctors had stopped treatment because all it was doing was making Rose sick. The cancer was winning and Laura and Steve knew that. There was nothing to be done now. The final stage, acceptance. Instead of wallowing in self-pity, they chose to now focus their preparations. They wanted to have the funeral soon after so they made the reservations and they requested their daughter be cremated. When they did research on planting flowers in human remains though they found it was almost impossible. The contents of the ashes would be too deadly, a far from optimal environment for new life to form. Of course, it made sense. It was a paradox what they were trying to accomplish, growing life in death. Well, at least they would still have the ashes. That gave them comfort but should they tell Rose she couldn’t have her dying wish? They were afraid it would break her heart. That was all she wanted. This thought encouraged them to not give up. They prayed for a miracle. She had to come back as a rose and the more determination they felt to try, the more they believed it was possible.
So, when the day came when they had to say their goodbyes to their little girl, of course it broke their hearts but their determination numbed the pain slightly as they believed their daughter wasn’t really going to be gone. They had her cremated and within the ashes they planted a single rose seed. They put the ashes in a brightly lit window and watered it daily. The ashes were kept in the window every day except for the day of the funeral where they transported the pot of ashes to the funeral home where thankfully there was a brightly lit window up by the alter. They told of their daughter’s dying wish, which everyone thought was beautiful. They knew everyone thought it was impossible though just like they once had but something told them there would be a miracle one day and a rose would blossom out of those ashes.
Months went by with no luck, which turned into years and by then they had stopped watering the ashes. They had now lost hope.
But on that fifth year, on a warm summer day, they came home to find a rose bud poking its head out of the ashes. Laura saw it first, sure her eyes were deceiving her but Steve saw it too although he was skeptical when his wife had told him. There it was plain as day. They had to tell people of the miracle. They invited friends and family over and they had a celebration of life. In no time they ended up on the news, which they didn’t mind. The world needed to know of their miracle. Soon, the rose started to blossom rapidly and it was the biggest most beautiful rose they had ever seen. It was their Rose.