My Angel

My wife of two years had a son with her suitcases. I had a daughter with my baggage. Our union produced three more and manufactured an ever-growing mound of manure. The dysfunction didn’t diminish the love in our home. Neither did it prepare us for the toll on our sanity that came with having a house with five children in it after being married two years. They accompanied the news of us expecting our fourth in four years with eye rolls and whispers instead of the congratulations.

God blessed me to see three amazing births and one horror show when our third was born without anesthesia. I could not be present when Breanna Sara Edwards came from Heaven to Earth on September 9, 2005. A miracle happened in my absence. Breanna arrived without a heartbeat while my wife slipped into a coma losing too much blood during delivery. They left the hospital together a week later. Yeah, I am a proud papa who does not favor one child over another, but Breanna was a Cherub. Head full of curly hair, with bright butter cookie complexion. The girl even had four perfect teeth. Born like she been here before.  The “oohs” and “ahs” lasted two months.

 Soon we witnessed the true differences. She did not smile much. She was not for smooching and snuggling. We assumed we did things wrong. She cried when dry. She whined when full. She fussed when waking. She’d bust a cap in that ass if she could at bath time. No way could we could submerge her. Her only pacifiers, her right thumb and older brother Micah. Our first child and my only son. At first I was like why him, and not me; but once she smiled, I didn’t care.

 Our home resembled a happy family. Sibling rivalries stalled. Rest came for my wife and I as Breanna slept through the night at six months. We noticed other strong differences this child had from her siblings. Once our kids slept through the night, they didn’t need warm bottles. If her bottle got room temperature, duck. She detested baby food, and spit out any we feed her. An old baby swing that no longer worked because her favorite person broke it when he turned 7 months. Strangers thought him two at 7 months. The motor on the swing burnt out swinging him.  We kept it around for a different place to put the babies. Breanna in her infantile ingenuity used her momentum. Pop her thumb in her mouth lean forward then back until she flew off. I didn’t want to believe it, but eyes don’t lie sometimes. As it neared the summer’s end, we got a concerned for she had shown no signs of walking.

 Her birthday came and left. She still didn’t walk holding someone’s hand or lean on furniture. But her height, weight, and head size with a mouth full of teeth good for her age.  Instead, zooming everywhere on her hands and knees. We took her for her yearly check-up. Her pediatrician said, “Don’t worry; all children develop at a different pace.”  So we didn’t. Halloween’s trick, she let us put her in a pumpkin costume. Eight days later, I took a picture of her in a blue jumper that belonged to her favorite person. She had stood by now. So, a must catch on film. I remember frowning because she didn’t smile. A week later I woke from a horrible dream.  Crying hard, I woke my wife from her sleep.  She asked, “What’s wrong with you, I have to work in the morning?” 

I answered her, “I do not know where I, but we were on a bus stop together crying. Something filled us with such grief. I felt it in my sleep. This sad song whispered.”  She held me close and kissed me as I cried silent through the night.

 November 21, 2006 did not differ from any other except it being two days before Thanksgiving. Breanna fell asleep early that night. She woke the time my wife, and I got in our nightclothes. Strangest thing, she did not cry; she laughed. My wife, and I looked at each other in amazement. I took her from her crib and put her on the bed with us. She played patty-cake, sang the Wheels on the Bus, and looked happy for the first time with her parents. Hours crept by, and I slipped into sleepiness. My loving wife had to work in the morning; but told me to turn it in. I had to watch the kids in the morning. When the alarm sounded that morning, my wife’s eyes had mini-pillows under them. Breanna’s overflowing with life. I asked my wife with in disbelief, “Has she been up the whole time?”  My wife nodded a yes. I got up and got my stepson Camren ready for school. He kissed Breanna and said goodbye to her. I nearly spilled the milk when she said bye back and reached her arms out for him to give her a hug. I have never seen a child that young ever display such disdain for another child, but Breanna did not like her brother Camren. At all.

 After I returned from dropping him off at school, my wife left for work. I brought Breanna downstairs and put her in the swing. For the first time in hours, she showed signs of her usual fussy self and whined.  I said, “Daddy be right back Baby. I have to wake up Bruh Bruh, and your sisters.”  I walked away shaking my head. I never stopped her from crying with mere words before. Plus, she never cried when getting in the swing. MAN THIS WEIRD!  I woke the rest of the kids and fed them including Breanna.  I pulled out the sofa bed for us to lay back and watch Dora and Boots.  Breanna showed little interest in her favorite show. She wanted to play with her daddy, and I obliged her. I showered her with the affection I had longed to give her.  I tickled her, we played with blocks, and she even let me lead her around as she walked with me. I tossed her in the air until she cackled. She never liked playing rocket like her siblings. I wanted the moment to extend forever, but I got sleepy again around 11 a.m. With five kids in the house and the oldest only five years-old, I waited. I coaxed Breanna to sleep, no easy task. She drifted off a little over an hour later. I remember thinking, YES FINALLY. I carried the two youngest girls upstairs because they slept now. I left Micah and my daughter Kynadi downstairs with Breanna.

 I fixed them lunch and instructed them not to wake their sister, or else. I got back on the sofa bed with Breanna and fell asleep beside her while the bigger two watched cartoons. I woke an hour later to see them sleeping on the floor. It tempted me to wake Breanna from her slumber. She looked so peaceful. I prepped dinner instead and waited for Camren to come home with the little girl next door. My wife arrived home before Camren, so I ran to the market to get the rest of dinner. By the time I returned, everyone home played except Sleeping Beauty. I reminded the kids of the consequences of waking Breanna, and finished up dinner, while my wife sent the kids upstairs.  

My wife ran into the kitchen frantic screaming. I didn’t understand what she said. “Please calm down Love Dove, I can’t hear you,” I said. 

“Come quick, my baby’s not breathing!” she hollered. I ran to my child, I picked her up and laid her on the dining room table.  “Call 911,” I said. Something directed my baby’s eyes towards me, but appeared to be looking through me as if she stared into the beyond.

 I tilted her head back, pinched her nose shut, and breathed into her. I glimpsed my wife talking to the operator.  I yelled, “Tell them to hurry, it’s not working!”  I kept going; I refused to believe my baby leaving me.  “No! Please God don’t take her!” as I pleaded with God. The paramedics showed up, and everything slowed down for me. It felt as if I floated out of my body, and I saw the events from afar. My wife crying. The police there searching for who knows what. Me clutching my head. I heard nothing they said. The Paramedics took my baby away. My in-laws arrived. I never noticed my wife call them. I remember an officer snapped his fingers to shake me from my spell of disbelief. “My baby!” I cried out loud. The police told my wife, and I we needed to come with them. Asked her relatives to stay with the kids. I drenched my shirt through my t-shirt to my skin with tears. We walked shoulders slumped to the squad car. I collapsed before I got there and screamed “Nooooooo!!!!!”  My wife and an officer helped me to my feet. We got in.  

 By the time I realized us slowing down, Homicide was in front of me. That shook me from my hysterics. “Why are we here?” I asked exiting the car.

“It’s procedural for matters like this,” the officer said. My wife lost it. In my free fall, I forgot my wife needed me too; so I pulled her close and kissed her forehead as we followed behind him.  While with the detectives, they informed us Breanna died on arrival.  We answered all of their questions as best for parents whose baby never ever will walk, play, cry, sing or get sick again.  They told us we cannot return home yet, and Children’s Services had our children.  We left arm in arm with our world obliterated.  Once we got outside the sky opened, and a flash of lightening appeared overhead. A crackling, roaring thunder signaled the downpour.

 Wet and filled with utter grief, we looked into each other’s eyes and wept in the storm of our lives. We walked and cried never saying a word. We arrived at my father-in-law’s house soaked to our essence. The next few days blurred. They told us not to contact our kids until court on Monday. THANKSGIVING WITH NO KIDS HOW THE FUCK DOES THIS HAPPEN.  

Court came and left us kidless and still unable to grieve as a family.  Our tragedy turned into the sinister version of the “Twilight Zone.”  Children’s Services slandered my name in a report. It read “Father brutally beat baby to death.” They retracted their statement, but the report did the damage intended. What judge in his right mind dare return children after reading something so heinous? The judge said after the autopsy and when the cause of death determined, they could return our children. Our family never recovered from those hurtful vicious words. The rift between my wife’s family and us grew, then spread to her and me.

 I cannot remember the date of Breanna’s funeral, but I remember not one of my in-laws showed.  My children, the only blood relatives I have in Maryland didn’t see  my Angel lay in her tiny casket in her blue Easter dress. I kissed my porcelain doll. Crying during the service without making a sound, just tears rivering my face. My stoic wife embarrassed by her family’s decision to not show any support for her held my hand tight. The only people in attendance besides us, friends and coworkers. We had Breanna’s remains cremated to make a shrine for her in our home. It didn’t happen. Her grandfather entrusted with her ashes allegedly accidentally threw them away. Everybody offered us a ride home, but we refused them and walked home alone.  Along the way we stopped and sat on a bench at a bus stop and wept.  

 As déjà vu, I recalled the dream I from two weeks ago. I mentioned it to my wife, and we held each other and sobbed as I sang the song from my dream. 

In the light of the sun, is there anyone?

Oh it has begun… Oh dear you look so lost,

eyes are red and tears are shed,

this world you must’ve crossed… 

You said,

 you don’t know me, you don’t even care…

She said,

you don’t know me, and you don’t wear my chains… 

Pain from the dream, a raindrop. Breanna leaving, Katrina. My life after, New Orleans. A Tsunami flashed backed when I learned the lyrics today. That night on the bench I whaled through the chorus of an Augustana song I never remembered hearing until I dreamed it. I know I didn’t know the group back then.

Time slugged along, then autopsy declared Breanna Sara Edwards departed Earth on November 22, 2006 suddenly, unexpectedly, and unexplained. They returned our children to our custody, January 16, 2007.  In time God revealed Breanna was never mines to keep. She was an angel sent to teach us to cherish every moment we have with our children, and each other. She was there comforting my wife, and I as we had a set of twin girls later that year still drowning in grief. Where we couldn’t connect with words, our bodies tried, and we had a miracle baby we named Hope a year after that. She then guided us to love our children in patience and tenderness despite our love for each other waning under the heft of grief. When we divorced before Breanna should have turned nine, I know she kissed me. She refused to let me give into despair when her mother kept her siblings from me as we became adversaries in court. 

The supernatural realm will mind fuck you. I hated Thanksgiving since Breanna died. It tasted like slimy disgusting Okra not cooked in gumbo. Until she left me, my favorite holiday. Not the delicious food, but for the one day when people we love come together. The day puts the beefs and bickering on hold for one day to give thanks for the ones most dear. The sacrifices they made; and will continue to do. For eleven years I refused to allow the day to bless me. Despite the love that still dwelled in me for my kids. But then this Thanksgiving fell on the anniversary of Breanna’s death.]

I stole a moment away from my six babies with me for the Thanksgiving weekend. I looked at that picture taken November 8, 2006. That same picture of my Angel. She now wears a smile on her face. For me it says keep going Daddy, ya’ll gone be all right.