31: Saving Mallory

31: Saving Mallory

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Touched by an Angel

Saving Mallory

For every soul, there is a guardian watching it.

~The Quran

“Welcome to Phoenix, ladies and gentlemen. Please remain seated with your seatbelts fastened until we come to a complete stop at the gate and the captain has turned off the seatbelt sign.”

Welcome to Phoenix my behind! I didn’t want to be there. I wondered if I just stayed seated with my seatbelt fastened if they would fly me back to Orlando.

Glenn and I had come to Phoenix to be with his youngest daughter, Mallory, when she had surgery. The month before, doctors had discovered that she had a brain AVM. I had never heard of an AVM until a few months earlier when I had listened to Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor’s TED talk about her experience when her AVM exploded. We had brought her book, My Stroke of Insight, with us. I knew the same thing could happen to Mallory if it wasn’t repaired; nevertheless, I didn’t want to be in Phoenix.

For one thing, Glenn’s ex-wife and her husband would be there and they made me uncomfortable. Secondly, and more importantly, I would have to spend time sitting around a hospital. I hadn’t been inside a hospital since the night I lost my son, Jay. I had a sense of foreboding and my stomach felt tied in knots. I couldn’t convince myself that anything good ever happened in hospitals other than babies being born. We collected our bags and proceeded to the hotel and from there, the hospital.

On the day of our arrival, Mallory was to have an embolization to prepare the veins and arteries around the AVM for surgery. When we arrived, we headed to the waiting room. Ex’s husband met us at the door.

“They had to rush her into surgery. The embolization caused the AVM to burst and she was bleeding into her brain. They weren’t prepared to do the surgery today. This doesn’t look good.”

We were stunned, not understanding what this meant.

Ex looked spent. Her eyes looked teary, red and beyond worried. Even though we didn’t care for each other’s company, the mother in me wept for the mother in her.

Were Glenn and I going to lose a second child? Could we survive as a couple if we did? I began to shut down, my mind going to my safe place where I didn’t have to face what was happening. I sat on the sofa with Glenn, Ex and Ex’s husband. They whispered worriedly, but I didn’t hear. I had, in a sense, managed to leave Phoenix.

• • •

Glenn and I had married just as Mallory and Jay were approaching their terrible twos. Jay loved playing Mallory’s knight in shining armor, defending her from terrifying bugs and other dragon-like creatures. But when it came to playtime, he preferred his older stepbrother, Nick. At five, Nick was a font of knowledge for a two-year-old. Still, Jay felt the need to care for Mallory. We should have known that he would be looking after her in that murky between-worlds state where she was.

“You can go in to see her now,” announced the nurse.

Ex, Ex’s husband and Glenn started toward the door in a rush. I couldn’t blame them for their eagerness to see their daughter. I lagged behind; my stomach clenched looking at all the medical equipment I passed in the hallway. I fought to keep from vomiting, dragging my feet and dreading the moment I would see her.

My fear was justified. She looked dead. The ventilator maintained her breathing but tubes were running into and out of every part of her. Machines beeped and hissed. Her color was gray and her eyes were open and fixed. It was all I could do to keep from turning around and running out of the hospital. In my mind’s eye, I saw Jay lying there — dead.

Sitting quietly, I tried to distance myself as much as I could but I couldn’t stop looking at her. Was she there? Was she really in there? In my mind, I pleaded with her to wake up.

I stayed as long as I could but soon became exhausted. The flight had been long and then the shock had taken its toll on me. I excused myself and went back to the hotel. I was not helping at the hospital and I needed to try to talk to Jay on the other side.

After resting, I began to meditate. I relaxed, drifted, and then went to our meeting place. I meet Jay in a special place. It is a hillside meadow: bright, colorful and filled with grasses and flowers. There is a dense forest at the bottom of the hill and a stream. Jay took me there once when I was under hypnosis. There is a beautiful university made of glass or crystal on a hill nearby. Jay says I am not allowed to visit there until I cross over.

Jay met me at our usual place but quickly took me to another place I had never visited. It looked like a waiting room for teenagers — poorly lit and with large sofas and several other young people there. That’s when I noticed Mallory sitting beside Jay! My heart felt like it had stopped. I thought she had died and that was the reason she was there!

“Jay, why is Mallory here with you?” I asked, my voice filled with dread.

“She is just hanging out, Mom. She is going to be okay. She’ll go back when it’s time.”

Hope filled me. I so hoped that this vision was real! It seemed as real as talking to a flesh and blood person. Mallory didn’t speak directly to me. Maybe it was because she didn’t belong there. Can it be that you can’t speak to people in the physical realm when you are between worlds?

I ended my meditation and rushed back to the hospital to tell Glenn. Naturally, he was unimpressed since, at that time, he didn’t believe in spirit communication. He was so worried about Mallory that nothing would reassure him except for her to wake up. In my heart, I felt she would be okay.

Thus began our long vigil. There were so many surgeries, CT scans, MRIs, everything that they could think of to do. Nothing seemed to help.

Each day I would meditate. I would meet Jay in that dim place and Mallory would be with him. They seemed to be relaxed and enjoying each other’s company.

After a week, I returned to Orlando to take care of things at home but I continued to meet with Jay and Mallory each day. Glenn stayed in Phoenix most of the time, hoping for signs of improvement.

We endured six weeks of this limbo. The doctors only gave Mallory a five percent chance of survival. It looked dismal. At least I knew that if the worst happened, if Jay was wrong and Mallory didn’t make it, she would be with him and they would be fine. The rest of us would fall apart.

One day, when it began to look like this suffering would go on forever, I began to meditate. I went to the dim room and Jay was still there. I looked around and saw other teenagers but didn’t see Mallory.

“Jay, where’s Mallory?”

“She has gone on about her business, Mom,” he calmly replied, then got up and left the room.

My eyes snapped open. Puzzled, I didn’t know what to think. I fretted over what it could mean for the rest of the day. Late that afternoon Glenn called. “She’s waking up!”

Mallory’s recovery was long and difficult. She didn’t leave the hospital for several more weeks. She had to have physical and occupational therapy. It was a tedious process. When she finally went home, Glenn and I traveled to see her.

When we picked her up for dinner, she looked so thin and frail. She was in a wheelchair and had a hard time speaking. But in view of all she had been through, she was lucky to be alive. We had dinner and then decided Glenn would drop me by my mom’s house while he took Mallory home. I had gotten out of the car, hugged her goodbye, and had turned to walk away when I heard her.

“Marilyn…” she said weakly.

I turned and went back to her.

“I just have to tell you — Jay brought me back.”


“He brought me back. When I was waking up he was there with me. He was saying ‘Mal, wake up now… Mal, wake up.’ He brought me back.”

“Thank you so much for telling me,” I managed to choke out.

I hugged her again and ran inside with tears streaming down my face.

It was just like Jay. He was still taking care of Mal.

~Marilyn Ellis Futrell

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