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A grieving family asked a Sacred Heart specialist to ‘tell everyone COVID is real.’ She did through a poem.

Andie Daisley, a child life specialist, wrote a poem about helping kids say goodbye to their parents when they die of COVID-19.  (COLIN MULVANY?THE SPOKESMAN-REVI)
Andie Daisley, a child life specialist, wrote a poem about helping kids say goodbye to their parents when they die of COVID-19. (COLIN MULVANY?THE SPOKESMAN-REVI)

Andie Daisley is there in the toughest moments, sometimes ushering in the beginning of the grieving process with families and children following a death. It’s her job.

As a child life specialist at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center, Daisley helps sick kids or children of sick family members understand, process and get comfortable with illness, injury and sometimes death.

COVID-19 has changed Daisley’s job. While she is based in the pediatric emergency department, she and her other teammates are now often called to an adult floor to help a family begin to cope with how COVID-19 took away their loved one.

Never before has the same diagnosis and the same scenario played out over and over again for Daisley.

“There’s no greater honor than to be in that sacred space with someone,” Daisley said, acknowledging that these moments often contain both beauty and loss.

“It is so devastating, and if I could change that for these kids and families I work with, I would,” she added.

This fall, as she sat with one family coping with the death of a family member from the virus, their words struck her.

“Tell everyone COVID is real.”

The phrase turned over and over in Daisley’s head, and toward the end of her shift on a break, she opened her Notes app on her phone.

Daisley has never written poetry, just songs.

But that night after her shift, the words flowed. She wrote the story she’d experienced over and over and over again with COVID-19, with families saying goodbye. Kids losing parents, grandparents, loved ones.

“This is everyone’s story right now,” Daisley said.

The resulting poem felt like a release after months of emotional ups and downs and burnout for Daisley and her fellow health care workers.

“I want to scream from the rooftops what this has been like, but there’s nothing I want to talk about less at the same time,” Daisley said. “It’s these two realities that are difficult to hold.”

Below is Andie Daisley’s full poem.

How do you prepare a child to see

their parent for the last time?

This tube does this,

that tube does that.

He’ll look different than before.

You can walk up close.

You can stay far away.

You can change your mind.

I’m here with you. Say the word.

You can always change your mind.

“Will he hear me?” – He might.

“Will he answer me?” – He won’t.

I watch through a window as you wail.

I know this wail. It’s THE wail.

It’s the wail of understanding that what has been, will never be again. That once was, is no longer.

Heaving shoulders.

Clenched fists.

Trembling.

I wish I could take it away.

I wish I could turn back your clock.

My clock. Our clock. The world clock.

I wish I could heal you with my thoughts,

but instead I’ll just keep thinking them.

I’m so sorry, young one.

I’m so sorry you’re here.

You shouldn’t be here.

We shouldn’t be here.

Why are we here?

“I’ll miss you, dad.

Don’t forget us.

I love you.”

Heaving shoulders.

Clenched fists.

Trembling.

We practically ran back to the waiting room.

You did run, when we got there.

Out the door. Outside. Into the night.

I don’t blame you.

Anything to be out of that space.

That space made of broken hearts and dying breaths. Of chimes and tangled cords,

all saying the same thing – this is it.

Run, weary soul. Run.

Run into the fresh air.

Let the chill hit your face.

The sadness will follow,

but don’t let that stop you.

You won’t outrun the waves,

but you can keep pace. Run.

Heaving shoulders.

Clenched fists.

Trembling.

“How else can I support you tonight?”

I ask your family.

“Just tell everyone that Covid is real,”

they say.

“I promise.”

Heaving shoulders.

Clenched fists.

Trembling.

Deep breaths.

Count to three.

Dry your eyes.

Walk it off.

Another ticking clock awaits.

Arielle Dreher's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is funded in part by Report for America and by members of the Spokane community. This story can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.

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