It can be a random sound, or picture, or song, and that is all it takes to bring it all roaring back. This last time, it was during my cousin’s wedding. The DJ played “Forever” by Chris Brown, and as soon as I heard it, all the memories flooded my mind.
My eldest daughter and I would frequently dance to this song. She would have so much fun, and her smile would not only light up the room, but its radiance would also warm my heart and soul. Our favorite part of the song would be when Chris Brown would sing:
It’s a long way down
We so high off the ground
Sendin’ for an angel to bring me your heart
Girl, where did you come from?
Got me so undone
Gaze in your eyes got me sayin’
“What a beautiful lady”
No if, ands or maybes
I’m releasin’ my heart
And it’s feelin’ amazing
There’s no one else that matters
You love me
And I won’t let you fall, girl (fall, girl)
Let you fall girl, oh
And then I would spin her around the room. She suffered from a crippling genetic disorder called ataxia-telangiectasia, and it gave her cerebellar ataxia that was so bad she could no longer walk. And when I spun her around, she would close her eyes and just take it all in.
I could tell that she felt free at that moment: free from the prison of her disability; free from the cage of her inability to walk like other kids; free from the ravages of her illness. And I would love it with all my heart. And the words, “I won’t let you fall, girl” resonated so much with me because, I had to frequently hold and carry her so that she would not fall to the ground.
Today, 13 years ago, that eldest daughter of mine who I used to spin around died after fighting a brutal battle with B-cell lymphoma. When I heard that song by Chris Brown during my cousin’s wedding, those memories came rushing back, and then so did the pain of her loss, and tears flooded my eyes.
I try to not be suffocated by the pain of her loss. I try not to be buried in grief like her beautiful pink casket was buried in dirt. I try to be strong all the time, so my family, and my colleagues, and my patients don’t have to tend to a father devastated by the loss of his child. I try to smile and laugh and make others laugh with me as much as possible.
But all it takes is one fleeting reminder, and the horror of her loss comes roaring back.
As the years pass from her death, I sometimes forget. I forget about her, her beauty, her voice, her pure and angelic heart. I forget about how sick she was and how sick she became. I forget about the days leading up to her death, and how much of a nightmare they were. My current life, and job, and kids, and all the hustle and bustle make me forget.
I hate that. I hate that I forget. I hurts so much that I forget.
But if I simply close my eyes and go back to that time; if I close my eyes and relive those memories burned in my brain; if I close my eyes – when hearing Chris Brown’s song – and remember those moments when I would spin her around and she would feel free, it becomes unbearable. The pain becomes too suffocating, and then I want to forget.
It is a vicious and painful cycle that I cannot escape.
It has definitely gotten better 13 years later. The pain of her loss has eased a little, and by the grace of our Lord, I have not been paralyzed by grief. We have been blessed with so much goodness and good times since her death, and I can never truly thank the Lord enough for all the beauty He has graced my family and me. Each day I live and breath since June 7, 2009 is a testament to the Grace and Mercy of God.
At the same time, all it takes is one small thing, and the pain comes roaring back. I pray that, when those times do happen, the Lord sends down His Grace and Comfort to help me bear the storm. Otherwise, there is no way I can keep moving on.
[Editor’s Note: The Bayan Hassaballa Foundation.
A charitable foundation has been established to honor the memory of Angel, Bayan Hassaballa, who lost her struggle with Ataxia-Telangiectasia and Lymphoma in 2009. The Foundation’s mission is to “Paint The World Pink For Bayan.”
With the help of “Bayan’s Angels,” the Bayan Hassaballa Foundation has provided warm blankets for children in the hospital and has supported the vital work of research into finding cures for Ataxia-Telangiectasia and Lymphoma.
Contributions can be made through this website: https://www.ourangelbayan.org/]