Breathe

For the unbelievers

Scripture

35 While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader’s house to say, ‘Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?’ 36 But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, ‘Do not fear, only believe.’ 37 He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. 38 When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. 39 When he had entered, he said to them, ‘Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.’ 40 And they laughed at him. Then he put them all outside, and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. 41 He took her by the hand and said to her, ‘Talitha cum’, which means, ‘Little girl, get up!’ 42 And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. 43 He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.     

-Mark 5:35-43



one

Auntie.  Uncle.  Cousins.  Sis.  They all come in, one by one to say goodbye.  So many tears.  I tell them not to worry, that I am going to God, that I am ready.  I tell my older sister that she can have my music collection.  I tell her where to find it, some of the cd’s are in my locker, others are in my closet.  She always listened to them more than I did.  I tell her to think of me at her graduation, to remember me when she starts college.  She nods and doesn’t say anything.  She just takes my hand and squeezes it.  Then she rubs my arm as if I am in pain.  I’m not.  A machine has been pumping liquid juice in my veins since morning.  This way, I will go to Jesus pain free.

My dad didn’t want a lot of people in the house today, only family.  Well, except for Rosa, my best friend.  She bought me a pair of sneakers and put them on my feet.  She says that when I get to heaven I can show God how cool they are.

Rosa and my family all hug me, kiss me, tell me how much they love me, how much of a good girl I am, how brave I am to accept death at 13.

Honestly, I’m kinda ready to go.  I’ve been fighting leukemia for eight years.  I’ve gone back and forth to hospitals.  I’ve taken all kinds of drugs.  I’ve had radiation and chemotherapy.  I’ve lost my hair and a lot of weight.

So last month, when the doctor said there’s a new drug out that has an eight percent chance of working on me, I decided to die.  I told my mom first.  She said I was too young to make that decision on my own.  But my dad said okay.  He convinced her that it was time to let me go.  That day was the day I saw my mom cry the most. 

Today, my mom has been sitting in the corner of my room all day.  She hasn’t moved from that spot at all.  She just keeps wiping her tears and looking at me, saying to God that she can’t believe this is happening.

My dad is in the hallway talking to the nurse.  Although they talk softly, I can hear everything.

“Mr. Mendoza, when she passes, I will document the time of death.  Then I will submit it to the state so they can prepare the death certificate.”

“Oh, okay.”

“And it might be best to stay in the room with her when she passes.  I find that most parents feel a sense of closure when they do that.  It will help your family heal.”

“Right, right.”

“Mr. Mendoza, are you sure you’re okay?  Are you sure you can handle this?”

“Of course.  Yes, of course.”

After he finishes talking with the nurse, he comes into my room and stands by my bed.

“My daughter, I love you,” he whispers to me in soft Spanish.

“I love you, too, Papa.”

My voice is kinda weak because I haven’t been drinking or eating anything.  The nurse said it’s better that I don’t.  So I didn’t.

“Papa, don’t worry.   Everything’s going to be okay.  I’m just going back to Jesus.  When you need me, you can just pray and I’ll be there.”

My dad smiles at me when I say this. 

“My daughter, you never cease to amaze me.  Where did you learn to be so brave, huh?”

“From you, Papa.”

My father shakes his head as if I am wrong.  But it’s true.  My dad was always the fighter of the family.  He never let us sink even when he lost his job years ago.  My dad always managed to keep the Mendoza family afloat.  He was the strong one, not me.

“My daughter, when…when you get to…to heaven, kiss Jesus for me.”

“Of course, Papa.”

My dad kisses my hand, then my head.  He sits down on a chair next to my bed and looks at me, just like my mother.  They are the only ones in the room now.  I can hear everyone else in the living room.

“My daughter.”

“Yes, Papa.”

My father starts to say something more, but then he just stands up.

“No!” he says real loud.

“Papa?”

“No!  My daughter, I love you, but you are wrong.  No!  You will not die today!  I will not have it.  This was a mistake.

“Antonio?” says my mother.

“Marcia, this cannot be!  You were right.  I was wrong.  She is too young.  Not today!  She is not dying today.  No!”

“But what can we do, Antonio.  The doctor stopped the medicine.  What can we do now?”

“Papa, Mama, it’s okay,” I say.  “I want this.  I can’t take the pain anymore.  I want to go home.  Please don’t make it any harder.”

“My daughter, I’m sorry, but you will have to fight some more.  That is life.  You must fight…and you must keep on living.  You are not dying today!”

“Then what, Antonio?”  

“I don’t know.  But I know where to get help.  I know Who can help us.”

Then my dad turns to me.

“My daughter, hold on.  Fight!  You are not dying today!”

Then my dad just storms out of my room.  I hear a small commotion in the living room as everyone asks him where he’s going.  I hear my dad yell out “No!” again, then slams the front door behind him.


two

“Jesus, Jennifer is my daughter.  There must be something You can do.”

“She is young.  She is too young.  She cannot die today.  She has too much to live for.”

“I have done all that I can do.  I have taken her to every doctor there is.”

“Still, Lord, You did not heal her.”

“Please, Jesus.  Por favor!  Heal my daughter.  Heal Jennifer!”

“Oh, Jesus, please!  Please heal her.  Heal my daughter.”

“You can do it!”

“I believe!  I believe!” 

“Heal my daughter.”

“Heal Jennifer!”

“Please!”


three

I feel my chest get real heavy and it is getting really hard for me to breathe, so I stop breathing like the nurse told me to.  The last thing I see is my mother standing near my bed and holding my hand and crying.

Then I feel like I am kinda floating somewhere.  I feel a lot of love around me.  I see a lot of light.  It all kinda feels like a weird dream, only I know it isn’t a dream.

I see a lot of people.  I don’t know any of them.  There are men and women and children from every race and language.  It is kinda crowded but it isn’t crazy, just crowded.

Then someone grabs my arm and tells me that I am too early.  It is a woman.  She says I am not supposed to be here and she tells me to go back.  Somehow I know that if I go back then that means I will wake up and I will be in pain with the leukemia all over again.  So I don’t want to listen to her. 

She keeps on telling me to leave.  She takes my arm and sort of guides me back to where I came from, away from all the light and all the people.

I keep telling her that I don’t want to go, but the woman is real nice about it.  She smiles when she tells me that it isn’t up to me.  She says that it isn’t my time.  She just keeps saying that it’s too soon. 

So I ask her if maybe she can do something about the leukemia pain.  I ask her that if I have to go back, can she just make the pain less.  I don’t really understand why I am asking her that, but something in me is thinking that she is special or something and that she has some kind of power or access to some kind of Power that can make the pain less.

She hugs me real tight and tells me now to worry about it.  She says that when I get back I shouldn’t worry about those things.  She just keeps saying that I have to go back and I have to go back right now.  So I do.

When I wake up in my bed, there is no one there.  I am alone in my bedroom.  Even my mother is gone.  Nobody is around.  I can hear some commotion in the house but it is real soft and it sounds like it is coming from the kitchen.

I sit up and I am shocked at how easy it is.  No pain at all.  I feel like the medicine juice is bothering me, so I slowly pull the needles out of my arm.  It hurts a little, but mostly it feels like a pin-prick.  When I pull them it out, I feel a lot better.

So I swing my legs over to the side of the bed and stand up real slow because I expect to feel dizzy and weak like I always do with the leukemia, but I don’t this time.  I feel strong but cold, so I go to my closet and change into jeans and a sweater. 

My stomach is grumbling real hard, like I haven’t eaten in years.  I feel like I am starving.  So I slip some socks on my feet and walk to my bedroom door and open it. 

No one is in the hallway, so no one notices me until I get near the kitchen doorway.

“Ah!” someone screams when they see me.

Everybody gets real quiet and their eyes get real big when they look at me.  Some do the sign of the cross.  They look at me like I’m a ghost.  I look around for my dad but he isn’t here.

Jennifer?” says my mother.  “You…you…died.  I saw you. “

“It’s me, Mama.  It felt like…like I was sleeping and I went to this light but this woman told me to go back.”

When I speak, everyone starts screaming again.

“Stop!” I yell.

My voice is not cracked and dry as it was, but I am real thirsty and real hungry.  Just then, just as I am about to speak again, the front door opens and I hear my dad come in.  It sounds like he is running.

“Marcia!  I prayed and I know God is going to-”  

When my dad sees me, he smiles real wide. 

“My daughter!” he says, opening his arms to me.

I go to my father and melt into his arms. 

“I knew it,” my father says.  “God told me He was going to heal her.  He told me!  I heard it!  This is a miracle!”  

My mother slowly walks towards us.  She looks kinda confused, but she’s smiling.

“Jennifer, is it really you?  I can’t believe it!  Antonio, she…she stopped breathing.  I saw it.”  

My father shrugs his shoulders.

“It doesn’t matter.  I prayed to God and He healed her.  He brought my daughter back to life!  He did it!”  

My family slowly comes around.  They look at me kinda funny at first because they can’t believe I’m alive.  Even the nurse is shaking her head in disbelief.  She keeps telling my dad that he needs to take me to the doctor so they can run some tests because what just happened was impossible. My father just ignores her.

“No!” he says real loud.  “God, Himself healed Jennifer.  She is healed.  The cancer is gone.  I know it.  He told me He was going to heal her and He did it.  That’s it!”

Eventually, people start hugging me and kissing me and it feels really good.  They squeeze my arms and caress my hair, trying to make sure that it’s really me, that I’m really alive.  At some point, I can’t take the hunger anymore and kinda pull away from everybody.

“Mama, Papa, can I have something to eat?  I’m really hungry.”  

This makes everybody laugh and smile and clap.  My mom and all my aunts go back into the kitchen and start making something for me to eat.  My dad laughs real hard and just can’t stop smiling.

“God said He was going to heal you, Jennifer,” he says.  “He said He was going to give you a brand new life…and He did it.  He raised my daughter from the dead!”

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