By KT Leary
The Universe Tries To Right Itself
On August 6th 2009, my daughter, Erin, died at 11:15am, as a seat belted passenger in a car driven by a friend on the way to a mall. Erin and four friends were trying to purchase one more concert ticket for a friend, so they could all attend a Blink 182 concert that evening. The vehicle was speeding, being driven erratically and it hit a guardrail, rolled over, hitting the cement median also. Two passengers died, Erin and her dear friend Jason, both seated in the rear. Erin had just turned 16 and Jason was 17.
Erin had been ill for four and a half years with aggressive colitis and had survived the removal of her large intestine in January 2009. She was finally healthy, off all medications, and excited to embrace her life. She discovered what most teens in Hull, MA knew. That jumping off the A St. pier into the bay was a summer right of passage. She did well in school, was loved by her friends, and knew the meaning of resilience and compassion. She volunteered for many causes, and especially loved helping at the Paragon Carousel.
To say that her older sister, Shannon, and I are devastated is an understatement. Our world forever changed; we would reel from this blow every moment of our lives. Shannon needed to leave for her first semester at college three weeks after Erin’s accident. Due to a shortage of dorms, some students were housed in studio apartments, as Shannon was. She struggled to adjust to this greatest of losses, being alone in a new place, and the workload. Four months into school, Shannon decided she wanted a cat to keep her company, and help her through her emotionally battered days. She and I adopted a young calico cat from the ASPCA.
We brought the very magical cat home from the shelter, and named her Aylen. She is sweet, gentle and affectionate, and reminds us so much of Erin, in some otherworldly way. In trying to acclimate Aylen to my home during Shannon’s winter break, we introduced Aylen to our two dogs. They were fine together, until I without thinking, put the male dog’s food bowl down. Aylen rushed over and the dog attacked her, flipping her and breaking her leg. It was terrifying – could our loss be compounded by another so soon? How had I let this sweet animal be injured?
We rushed her to our vet. Then to the animal hospital where it was determined she wouldn’t die. Both Shannon and I cried in the waiting room: for Aylen, for Erin, for ourselves. We tried to explain our emotional state to the emergency aide. We were told Aylen needed either to have a splint or be operated on for two broken leg bones. The difference in price was $1,000 versus $4,000. We chose the splint and lesser price out of necessity. We went home numb.
I remembered I had planned to meet three friends for dinner that evening and I joined them for a short while to tell them what had happened and explain why I was so late joining them. I briefly explained about Aylen. We talked about Erin. We drank tea.
The next afternoon Shannon and I went to get Aylen and the same helpful aide took us aside to tell us that an anonymous donor was willing to cover Aylen’s surgery costs if we chose that for her. We both started to cry again. Disbelief. Kindness. Incredible Kindness. What was happening? Who knew where Aylen was being treated? Who could afford to do this? Why did this feel so strongly that it was mixed up with the loss of Erin?
The aide, Megan, took us into a private room so we might compose ourselves and try to comprehend what she was offering. We needed to decide quickly while the doctor could fit it in her operating schedule. What did we want to do? I asked Shannon to decide. In tears, Shannon said, “Maybe the universe is trying to right itself,” and then she said yes to surgery and a greater hope for full recovery of Aylen’s limb.
Aylen came home with six pins in her leg and two blue bars holding them in place. After six weeks they were removed and she went to live with Shannon in Boston. She is fully recovered. I have visitation because I fell in love with her too.
We honored the donor’s right to remain anonymous, asking only that the vet mail a letter from us, with Erin’s picture, Aylen’s picture, and our immense gratitude expressed inside.
About the author
KT Leary is the mother of two residing in a tiny, coastal community just south of Boston. She is a chef and volunteers for many worthy causes including Lakota Kidz http://www.lakotakidz.org/ She was kind enough to share this poignant story of her enormous loss and the small, subtle ways the Universe tries to comfort us. I’m certain she would be most grateful if anybody reading this article was motivated to go out and commit a random act of incredible kindness in memory of a really good kid, Erin Leary. Please feel free to send updates of your Random Acts of Incredible Kindness and I will forward them to KT and Shannon. firstname.lastname@example.org