Can I call you “Banana?”

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I would say that you were the cutest, happiest, most lovable kid that I’ve ever met, if I didn’t have three little boys at home. There you were out of your room. Your enthusiastic self, bopping around the halls, with your “never met a stranger” kind of zeal for hospital life. You attracted everyone within earshot to come talk to you. To be near you. You were going home, and you told everybody. You called me “Child Life.” You couldn’t remember my name. You asked me a lot of times. Amelia is always a hard name to remember, I said. You asked if you could just call me “Banana.” I said, “Sure, if I can call you “Pineapple.” It was only fair. You said that I could.

Then, it was time for you to do the hard thing. You wanted a little more time to play. To delay perhaps. You have had to do far too many hard things in your short life. You knew the routine. You offered to help when you could. Your kind and patient nurse let you do the jobs that your tiny hands could help do. I think she thought you were pretty awesome, too. You needed a tiny bit of power, a smidgen of control and a few choices. Like we all do. You wanted just a wee bit more time. Time to process, time to cope, time to talk to all of us. I asked if you could squeeze my hands really hard to help with the hurt. You held on tight. And squeezed my long fingers in your little hands. I pretended that you were so strong that you were breaking my hands. ” Owwwwch!” It didn’t quite hurt my hands, but it squeezed all of our hearts to see you hurting. To hear you beg and plead. Then, you needed to take a couple of breaks. I asked if we could count to ten. You said, “I want to count down from eleven.” That sounded perfect. Then your sweet, quick voice said, “11…6….5…..4…3…2.1.” You were ready to start again. As ready as you could be. It was so hard. You were ready to go home. And be done. So, you needed one more break. Your dad looked at you from the end of the bed. You said,”I am brave, Daddy. I love you.” We all could have cried. Yes. You were the bravest, yet littlest one, with the biggest heart, in a room full of grown ups. We all told you how brave you were. You needed to hear it from a crowd. And we all meant it.

You may never know the ripple effect your existence, your spunk and your contagious joy had on all of us. We see a lot of sadness, a lot of unfairness, and a lot of pain. It can be hard to forget. That deep, dark, big tough-to-understand stuff can fog up our hospital-working brains. So much sometimes that it’s hard to remember the “yous.” The fighters, the resilient, the brave, the gigglers, and the proud. The kids that overcome.

Did you know that you, Pineapple, are the reason we all love to work with kids? How did you get to be so strong in your little tiny body? You’re the absolute best. It was an honor and privilege to spend thirty minutes with you. And your beautiful parents. You’re the best kind of teacher. We can all learn some of the most difficult life lessons from you. How to deal with the yuck of this life in the most beautiful and inspiring way. How to heal from the inside out. How to unselfishly talk to others, love others and make people around you feel so special in the midst of your hard times. And how to truly appreciate others, even if they’re doing those things that hurt to help you. If I ever am lucky enough to see you again, I doubt that you’ll remember my name. Afterall, everyone wants to be near your energy. Your smile. You meet a lot of people. My name is hard to remember. And so is yours.

You can just call me “Banana” and I will call you “Pineapple.”

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