This scene originally appeared in the epilogue, beginning on p. 541. Carolyn, Georgia, and Faith are on a plane heading for Germany, where Jason is in the hospital. In this scene, Carolyn remembers a few more details of Dawn’s final days.
Georgia sat across the aisle, face pale and strained. She gave a nervous smile. “I’m fine.” She looked anything but fine, but Carolyn understood all too well. She hadn’t been as calm when faced with May Flower Dawn’s impending death. Learning Jason had been seriously wounded in Afghanistan and flown to Landstuhl had them all on their knees. Georgia wouldn’t feel better until she saw her son, and she had confirmation he would survive, though his life would never be the same. He’d taken one blow after another. Carolyn prayed Faith would give him the will to endure.
They’d gotten the news two weeks ago about the terrorist attack and that Jason had been wounded, but they didn’t know until a few days later the extent of his injuries and where he had been transferred. Eventually, Jason would end up in the States, but how long before that happened? Weeks? A month? Two? What mother wanted to wait that long to see her wounded son? Carolyn hadn’t even said anything about flying over. Mitch went ahead and made the calls.
Just as he’d done in the days following Faith’s birth, Mitch had moved mountains until he had the information he needed and arrangements to get family members together during this time of crisis. He had gotten Jason home from Iraq within five days of Faith’s birth at Jenner. May Flower Dawn had spent a week in the hospital after Faith was born. Tests confirmed what she already knew: she didn’t have much time. The doctor ordered palliative radiation to control the pain. Dawn came home, and hospice was called in. Word came when Jason would arrive. Mitch and Georgia picked him up at San Francisco International and brought him to the house. Georgia called Carolyn when they were within minutes of arriving. Carolyn stood at the door with Faith in her arms as they came up the driveway.
Jason got out of the Yukon before anyone else and strode toward the house. He looked taller, broader in the shoulders, every inch the confident soldier, except for his brown eyes raw with pain. He kissed Carolyn’s cheek and ran a shaking, tender hand over Faith’s fuzzy blonde head. “Where is she?”
“Her old bedroom.”
He didn’t come out for two hours, and when he did, his eyes were red. “She’s asleep.”
Christopher withdrew from his college classes. School could wait. He wanted to spend as much time with his big sister as possible. They all gathered around Dawn’s bed. She looked so beautiful, blonde hair spread out against the pillow, wrapped exquisitely in the pink bed jacket Aunt Cloe sent. When conversation lagged, Dawn teased Christopher about things he had done. She made them laugh, even Jason who never left her room.
Mitch moved the rocking chair in so Carolyn or Mom or Jason could give Faith her bottle while Dawn watched. She lacked the strength to hold her daughter. Carolyn was reminded of what Mom had told her about being so sick with tuberculosis, aching to hold her little girl and having to send her away. Carolyn could see that pain in her daughter’s eyes now, the longing to do all the special things a mother did for her child. After each feeding and changing, whoever cared for Faith placed her beside her mother. Mitch was the only one who thought to take pictures.
When Dawn slipped into a coma, the family gathered around the bed and silently waited, still praying for a miracle. The hospice nurse had told them death was imminent. Jason held Dawn’s hand and watched her face. He stood and bent own to kiss her lips. “I love you, Dawn. I’ll love you forever.” He put his forehead against hers just before the monitor registered her last heartbeat.
Everyone worried about him. He’d been strong through those last weeks, but he grieved hard when Dawn died. He lost weight. He couldn’t sleep. He wouldn’t talk. Pastor Dan took him away for a midweek retreat. He seemed better when he returned. He didn’t look so lost. He spent more time with Faith after that, enjoying her for what little time he had before he would be sent back to the war. Georgia worried he’d put himself in harm’s way just to make the pain stop. Carolyn reminded her. “He has Faith, Georgia. He has faith.”
Carolyn looked at the beautiful little girl sitting in the big cushy leather seat next to her. If not for this adorable little munchkin, they would have all fallen to pieces. Dawn had made certain that wouldn’t happen when she placed Faith in her care. Her daughter had known exactly what she was doing. “I know you’ll miss me, Mom. I know you’ll grieve. But you have to nurture Faith. You won’t have time for regrets. Granny, you remind her. I love you both so much. I won’t be far away. Mom’s in charge, Granny. You assist. Okay? And keep Georgia in the loop.”
All three women knew Jason wouldn’t be around to rear his daughter. Uncle Sam had other plans.