He sits there, holding her in his arms, looking over every inch of her face, and he wonders: "How did we get here?"
He runs his hand gently along her cheek, just hoping she will respond. He holds her hand, a hand that seems to frail and tiny inside his, and he asks himself: "What will life be like without her?"
The clock ticks and every move of the second hand sounds like an explosion to his ears. Each passing moment the tension rises, the questions mount, the emotions threaten to consume him to the point of losing all sanity. And he stares at his little girl, lying there in that hospital room, and he thinks: "I don't know if I can go on after this."
He thinks long and hard on issues that usually don't get thought of much: what he truly believes about life and death, what his heart says about the hereafter, whether or not God can exist if this can happen to his little girl. He stares at her face as he faces his inner demons, and he finds hope in the slightest things: her eye lashes; the way her nose turns up at the end; the shape of her ears; the overall vision of beauty and innocence that her face projects.
Other people move about him, offering help, offering hope, offering prayers. He leaves her side only begrudgingly, only at the behest of others, and even then he leaves only to appease those folks who have his best interests at heart. He knows that they need their time to grieve in her presence. He knows that they need to make their peace with her situation and find comfort in the act. So he leaves. But only for a few moments. Only for so long.
Because in the end, she is his daughter.
When the room is quiet in the middle of the night, when the nurses have backed out of the room for a moment and left him and his girl alone, he cries for the future that has been lost. What once might have been now will never be, and as he thinks about the relative ease with which his own life has transpired, he weeps at the fact that her road was far more difficult. He curses the disparity. He screams at the universe that denied her justice. He shakes an angry and heartbroken fist at the sky.
The doctors tell him how sorry they are. The offer condolences more than hope. They try to explain something that is impossible to put into words. The best they can do is attempt to explain the "how" of the situation, but in doing so they only serve to heap injustice upon injustice because "how" is not the question of the day. The "how" of science is not soothing to the soul.
It's the "why", the cosmic, universal, inexplicable "why" that matters. And doctors cannot answer that.
Even preachers can't.
Eventually, he will tell his daughter everything that is in his heart, everything that he can think to say in that moment, and he will find himself exhausted. Spent.
And being empty, he will do the only thing left to do: take her in his arms one last time, lean over her and kiss her head and beg her forgiveness for not being able to take her place. Not being able to protect her the way he feels, as her father, he should have.
He will ask for that forgiveness and get silence in return. And then he will face the fact that life, all life, will be forever changed.
I wrote this about two men: Andy Copeland and myself.
I hope, for Andy's sake, that the ending with his daughter holds more hope. For him, and for Aimee.
My prayers continue for them both.