When my cousin, Kerri, was thirteen years old she passed away. On Thanksgiving Day she was at my Mom and Dad's house, and after our big turkey dinner I sat and talked to her. She was much younger than I was so we weren't especially close but I remember that talk.
The next day she went into cardiac arrest and was airlifted to Childrens' Memorial in Chicago. She remained there until her death in February. At one point, the doctors told her parents that the best they could do was manage her symptoms as they had no idea what was causing her to continually go into cardiac arrest.
That was when anorexia was just becoming known. She was teeny tiny for her age so they sent in a psychiatrist to talk to her. She would have no part of it and would turn her head away from the doctor when she would come in to discuss it. From the doctor's viewpoint, this only confirmed that she had been starving herself to death.
An autopsy revealed that she had Freidrich's Itaxia which attacks and weakens the muscles around the heart. Her funeral was so, so sad and when it was over my siblings and I all came back to my parents house. Mom and Dad went into their bedroom and closed the door. They had been incredibly strong for my aunt and uncle through the months of Kerri's illness and death and not once had I seen them cry.
All these years later, I think they came home from that cemetery, closed the door and sobbed. My dad emerged awhile later and said to all of us sitting at the table, "I don't ever want to hear one of you kids go to a funeral and tell someone to call if they need anything. Somebody they loved just died. Their life has been turned upside down and it's not up to them to pick up the phone to ask for help. It's up to us to pay attention and figure out what they need." Then he walked back into the bedroom and shut the door.
I never forgot those words of his. He meant them and he expected his kids to heed them.
Kerri was so pretty. Her eyes were big blue saucers and she had the longest lashes I'd ever seen. Even in the hospital hooked up to a dozen machines, she smiled and whispered and her eyes shone.
She needed so much that was out of the grasp of all of us those many months in the ICU, but if I could have done anything for her it would have been to tell that psychiatrist to leave our girl alone.