Chapter 18: Dying Days
The girls slept restlessly, they both had high fevers and complained of feeling achy. Downstairs I could hear the baby crying so I tiptoed out the door.
"Mama..." called a weak voice.
I turned and walked back to Sarah's bedside. "What is it dearest?" I whispered, not wanting to wake up Rachel.
"I love you." Sarah whispered. I fought back the urge to cry right then and wrapped my arms around her. "I love you too." I whispered into her hair. Alexander's cries got stronger and I knew Wesley would be coming up to get me so I laid Sarah back down. "Sleep Sarah, your papa will be up soon to sit with you." I said kissing her head. The heat from her head felt searing on my lips.
I passed Wesley in the hall outside the room just as an eruption of coughs echoed out. I looked back and saw Rachel sitting up in bed. Downstairs I heard Alexander getting louder. Wesley nodded toward the stairs as he went in to sit with the girls.
With a lingering look into their room I went downstairs to tend to Alexander. Under advice from the doctor, I washed my hands and face before picking him up. He immediately calmed as I cradled him and fed him. Upstairs the coughing got louder as now both girls were awake and coughing. I focused on Alexander, reminding myself that I had to tend to all my babes.
It didn't take me long to settled Alexander and get him back to sleep. Once he was asleep, I checked on Hannah and then went upstairs. Wesley brushed my hand as he went downstairs and I tended to the girls. Their coughing had calmed for the moment so I helped them drink and tucked them back into bed. Sarah kicked off her blankets immediately. They drifted off into another fitful sleep and I sunk to the floor between the beds. Looking heavenward, I closed my eyes.
"Mama...what are you praying for?" Sarah's weak raspy voice asked.
"You should be sleeping." I whispered with a very faint smile.
"I'm not tired." she said while rubbing her eyes. She got out of bed and crawled into my lap and I hugged her close.
"Sing to me mama." she said looking into my eyes. "Please?"
"Hush now." I said holding her. I sang softly to her until long after her eyes had drifted closed. I heard Wesley's footsteps behind me and noted the grave look on his face. Carefully I stood and tucked Sarah back into bed before turning to him.
"Alan's here, it's John...." he said softly. I took a long breath and nodded. He sat in the chair and I went back downstairs.
"Oh Alan! What is it?" I asked walking to his side.
"It's Pa, Aunt Lizzie. He's getting worse!" Alan said through tears.
I held him close to me. "Will you come Aunt Lizzie, I think Ma needs you. She didn't ask but..." he trailed off.
I looked up toward the ceiling to the second story where my own sick family was fitfully sleeping then nodded to Alan. "Wait here." I said trudging upstairs. Wesley appeared distant and sad when I saw him. Both girls were sleeping quietly.
"Go" he said softly after I explained. "I'll stay with them, we'll be okay here." he added. I looked at the girls and had to will myself to leave. I had to believe they'd be okay but I was terrified to leave them, even for a moment. "Go." Wesley said again with a sad smile. I nodded again and left.
When Alan and I arrived at their house, Catherine was staring blankly at the bed where Doctor Rheyer was bent over John. The triplet girls all sat mutely at the small kitchen table. I moved to Catherine's side and put my arm around her. "How is he?" I asked quietly.
Catherine just shook her head and then burst into the tears. I cradled her head against my shoulder and looked toward the doctor. He didn't shake his head but he didn't seem overly hopeful. "He may yet recover." he said with little confidence, "But...." he trailed off looking again at his patients pale face. Catherine broke into a new round of sobs. "How are the girls?" he asked me.
"Their fevers continue and their coughs have gotten worse but their fighting." I said trying to feel confident.
"And the other babes, any symptoms?" he asked as he packed up his bag. I shook my head. "Mrs. Garrett" he said addressing Catherine. "I'm leaving some more medicine. Please try to give it to him, same dosage." he said placing a small bottle on the table. I sat with Catherine for some time before she drifted off to sleep. I laid her back on the chair and covered her up with a blanket. "Come tell me if anything changes Alan." I said to my nephew, giving him another hug.
When I got home, both my girls were resting; Rachel better than Sarah. I relieved Wesley and sat down.
"Mama...." Sarah said, sounding weaker once again.
My eyes popped open, I hadn't realized I'd dosed off. She was standing up, clutching her head. I jumped to my feet to help her sit back down.
"Mama...." she said again blinking several times.
"Sarah?" I asked stepping close to her. Then she fell, it seemed so sudden...and yet I remember every small moment of the fall. No matter how fast I moved, I couldn't get to her side before her weakened body slumped to the floor. Her eyes seemed to stare blankly above her. "Sarah!" I screamed dropping to her side.
I heard Wesley thundering up the stairs as I pulled her limp body into my lap and searched for breath. "Sarah baby! Sarah!" I said through aching sobs. I looked up as Wesley came to a halt in the door frame and looked at him panicked. A new round of sobs rocked me as I looked from him to Sarah.
I felt her tiny body shudder. She took several ragged breaths. She was fighting so hard. "Sarah! Sarah! Come on dearest!" I said clutching her tightly. I looked at Wesley fearfully as her small body got still once more. At that moment I heard more footsteps thundering up the stairs and saw Alan, out of breath and with tears streaming down his flushed red cheeks.
Everything seemed blurry and out of control then. Darkness crept up around me, making my breathing as ragged as my tiny daughter's.
The funeral was small, Wesley was at home with the children - ours and Catherine's. We couldn't risk exposing them or anyone else so in the end it was just Catherine, the Reverend and I. Catherine was numb, I could see it in her eyes. And yet she took my hand firmly as we watched the dirt cover the casket.