Miranda put on her scrubs and tied her hair back in a loose ponytail. She had been working in the cancer ward at the children’s hospital for almost a year now. Fresh out of college, Miranda had not yet let the hardships of the job get to her, but she had become particularly attached to a 10 year old girl named Shelby.
Shelby’s prognosis was not good and each passing day Miranda watched her grow weaker and weaker. Somehow Shelby still managed a smile and even a laugh when Miranda would come to spend time with her. She would make up wild stories for Shelby to entertain her. It was the only thing that seemed to keep Shelby in high spirits.
Miranda had known that early this morning that Shelby had undergone some major chemotherapy treatments, to help slow the progression of Shelby’s leukemia. Miranda would go into the room and spend about an hour with her, making sure she stays hydrated, checking her fluids, pain meds, etc. It gave Shelby’s parents some time to get away for a bit, and know that their daughter would be in good hands.
Miranda burst into Shelby’s room with a big smile and an even bigger balloon with a huge smiley face on it. Shelby wearily looked up at the balloon and Miranda and managed to move her chapped lips into a partial shape of what was to be a returned smile. She didn’t look good today. Shelby’s hair had been gone for months and her skin was pale. Her eyes appeared even more sunken today than before.
Miranda’s smile quickly faded and she felt as though she may cry. Miranda had gotten pregnant her second year of college and had always felt guilty for having an abortion. She would’ve had a little girl, but she knew that she would have to leave school and couldn’t provide for her. To Miranda, Shelby was like a surrogate daughter, but seeing her now, in this condition it gave her a little peace. She imagined that this could’ve been her own child. She was pained now for Shelby’s parents, they were good people and she just couldn’t understand how God could allow such a thing.
Next to Shelby’s bed was a picture of her before she had gotten really sick. She was such a beautiful and vibrant little girl, and her life was being stolen away from her, slowly and painfully. Miranda knew that she had to get her thoughts together, she had to be strong because all of Shelby’s strength came from those around her, pretending to be strong, pretending to be hopeful. “I have a good story for you today, Shelby,” she said softly. Shelby opened up her eyes again, “Tell me, I’m ready to hear it, I hope I don’t fall asleep. I’m so tired.” Miranda fought with all her might to hold back the tears. “Okay, here it goes.”
“Once upon a time there was a beautiful mermaid, and her name was Shelby. She spent all day swimming in the ocean. The water was never too cold, the sun was always bright, and she was very happy. One day Shelby swam to the shore and lay upon the sand where she saw two children playing on the beach. The little boy and girl yelled out to her, “Come play with us.” But, Shelby had fins, not feet. Feeling lonely she cried and the children continued to chase each other around and collect shells. As the tears fell onto her tail, it started to transform into legs and feet, and on her body was a spectacular dress of beautiful pink and purple scales. She ran with the children and played until the sun went down and they had to return home. Shelby had to return home as well, but now she was confused where she wanted her home to be. A flock of seagulls landed on the shore nearby and squawked, “Come fly with us, but Shelby had legs now, not wings. She cried again, and she transformed into a bird. She flew with the seagulls over the vast ocean and saw the entire world below. When she flew high in the sky the stars twinkled and said, “Come twinkle with us.” Shelby cried again, because she was a bird, not a star. As she cried she became a bright beautiful star that floated up to the heavens above. Then she could really see the entire world and said, “This is my home. This is where I want to be.” And even now when we look up into the night sky she is there, twinkling brightly for the world to see, that she could be whatever and wherever she wanted.”
Shelby whispered, “I want to be a star, I want to twinkle in the sky forever. Is that where you go when you die?” Miranda started sobbing, “Yes, honey, I believe so. The sky above the Earth is the most beautiful place of all. And stars only fall when they don’t want to be stars any longer.”
Shelby’s parents came into the room just then and Shelby looked up at them weakly and smiled. She said, “I’m going to be a star.” At that moment Shelby slipped away. Miranda couldn’t finish her shift, she spent some time condoling Shelby’s parents. She left the hospital and walked around the beach and when the stars appeared in the sky, there was the biggest, brightest, most beautiful star, twinkling so bright that it appeared to be dancing. Miranda said her goodbyes and knew that Shelby was happy now, she would twinkle and dance in the sky forever.