Ritual Confessions

March 6, 2008

Message (continued)

Filed under: Uncategorized — elissakaren @ 1:02 am

I went home shaken by such close proximity to the truly devastating: a gaunt, bald little girl in constant pain, very likely to die. Her (single) mother’s only child. I wondered how my brother could bear countless scenarios like this one as a matter of course.

I didn’t think I had been especially good company for Giovanna or her mother. I had been unsure about how to talk with them. I didn’t want to adopt the bright, chipper tone of so many hospital personnel and volunteers; nor did I want to be tragic. I tried to stay low-key, soft-spoken, fully present but not overbearing. Nonetheless, I felt like the outsider I was.

A few days later, then, I was surprised to learn that Giovanna had asked that I come back and visit her again — surprised as well at the joy this brought me. I immediately agreed, and came back uptown with a stack of books to read to her. This began a pattern of visits that continued for the next many months. I came at least once a week, sometimes more. I brought books and crafts and baked goods and Beatriz’s favorite mocha drink from Starbucks, and anything else that I thought might distract and delight.

When Giovanna, who was Catholic, asked, “Why does God hate me?” I brought my friend, Father James, a Jesuit priest dressed in full clerical regalia and the most convincing authority figure I could find on the subject, to her bedside for a counseling session. He assured her that although we don’t understand everything God allows to happen, there was no doubt whatsoever that God did not hate her at all — that, in fact, God loved her dearly.

I brought hundreds of swatches from my paper collection around various holidays, and we used them to make holiday cards. I brought gingerbread cookies for her to decorate on Christmas and sugar cookies for her to decorate on Valentine’s Day. Because of these visits, I saw my brother more regularly and frequently than I had in years.




  1. Among other things this story demonstrates, it’s a great example of the fact that children have excellent bullshit detectors. They know when someone’s perky attitude is a form of deceit. No wonder she wanted you back — you and your brother and her mother were probably the only authentic people in her life.

    Comment by davidrochester — March 6, 2008 @ 5:45 am

  2. What an amazing gift you gave to her and to her mother. And I’m sure the gifts you received from them are just as amazing!

    I think David is right. Kids are excellent bullshit detectors! They know.

    Comment by Corina — March 6, 2008 @ 6:04 am

  3. Kids can also tell when someone really cares. I’m sure she saw that in you.

    Comment by Shawn W — March 7, 2008 @ 3:59 am

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