“I am glad to see you and your baby happy and healthy, Jessie,” Susan said with a smile.
“So am I for calling us here to your home, Susan,” Jessie replied humbly.
“This is also your home, Jessie as long as my grandson is alive, of course.”
They all giggled.
“Stacie, would you do us the honor and share the grace with us?” Susan asked.
Stacie nodded as they all held hands around the table.
“We thank you Lord for making it possible for us to sit together at this table in harmony. As we dine, please bless and sanctify this meal and cause us to bind together more and more, in Jesus’ name, amen.”
“Amen.” They let go of one another’s hands. They started serving themselves.
As Susan was serving herself, she looked at Stacie who was quietly staring at her. She gave her an assuring smile which caused Stacie to smile back.
“Hmmm….this food is good. I must say your cooks are amazing,” Jessica complimented.
“Yes they are; why do you think Jason and Stacie always look so good?” Susan said.
“I must say I am glad you both have been discharged and are at home safely,” Jessie said. “Thank you dear.”
After a few minutes, Susan asked, “Jason, how are plans for your wedding going?”
Jason out of shock almost choked on his food. He dropped his fork and drank some water. They all stared at Susan in surprise.
“Did I say something out of line? You told me yourself that you were going to marry Jessie after she delivered the baby, right Jason?”
“Yes I did but because of recent events, I haven’t really paid much attention to that, mother,” Jason answered.
“Well, as you can both Stacie and I are perfectly well so I suggest you hurry up with it before I….” Stacie looked up at her. Susan stopped herself and gave a nervous laugh.
“You know what I mean, son.”
“I do, mum and nothing’s going to happen to you, okay?”
“Oh that’s sweet of you to say, son.” Jason glanced at Stacie whose eyes could not hide the sorrow she was feeling. She looked back into her food.
When they had finished their meal, Susan excused herself to chat with Jessie so they went out onto the lawns. Jason walked to Stacie.
“Hey, are you okay?” He asked with concern in his voice. When Stacie looked up at him, there were tears in her eyes.
“Can’t you see what’s she doing, Jason?”
“All I can see is that she’s doing her best to patch things up with Jessica which is a good thing so why do you look so morose?”
“I feel she’s saying farewell to us, Jason. I can’t help it but feel like we’re going to lose her soon,” Stacie said sadly as the tears ran down her cheeks.
“Hey, don’t say that.” He hugged her. “Yes it’s possible that her present condition has caused her to reconsider her past actions to amend things the best way she can which is good but do not think she’s going to leave us.”
“Isn’t that what the doctor said? If that tumor is not removed, she’d definitely die soon!”
“Shh….we’re going to find a way, okay? I’m actually in search of the best neurosurgeons in the country who can take up mum’s case so please don’t worry, okay? I’m sure there is a way…” He looked into his sister’s eyes intently.
“We’re not going to lose another parent; not now; okay?” Stacie nodded. They hugged again. Stacie began sobbing. “It’s okay, sis; it’s okay.”
Stacie was dozing off on the couch when she heard footsteps from upstairs. She opened her eyes and saw her mother all dressed up. She sat up.
“Mum, are you going out?” Stacie asked.
“I’m sorry, did I wake you? My heels can be kind of noisy sometimes.”
“No, you didn’t, mum. Where are you off to?”
“I’m just going for a check-up, dear.”
“Oh okay, let me come with you so I can also get checked up.” Stacie stood up.
“Oh no; you’re fine and you got checked up about three days ago. You don’t need another one, honey.”
“Anyway, I’m coming with you,” Stacie insisted.
“Why is that? It’s not necessary; you need to take a lot of rest. I shouldn’t have woken you up with my heels…” Susan said. Stacie started up the stairs.
“I’m taking my handbag; wait up for me, mum.”
“But…” She sighed. “What a stubborn fellow.”
Few moments later, Stacie came back down.
“Let’s go, mother.”
“Do you really have to come with me?”
“Why don’t you want me to come with you? Or are you lying about going to the hospital?”
“Of course not; I just think you should stay at home.”
“I’m not, mum. Let’s go; I’ll call for the driver.”
“I was actually planning on driving,” Susan said. Stacie stopped and looked at her.
“And since when do you drive, mum? You love to sit at the back seat.”
“I know but….”
“But what? Okay, let me drive you.”
“Hell no; I don’t want to end up at the hospital, this time on a bed; no offense.”
“Fine then; we’ll go with the driver.”
They sat in the car and the driver took off.
“I’m glad to see you back in good shape, Miss Archer,” the doctor complimented.
“Thank you, doctor.” He picked up the scan sheet and examined it closely.
“Mrs. Archer, I’m sorry it’s not getting any better,” He said glumly.
“Isn’t there anything you can do?” Stacie asked.
“I told you the possible risks if we attempt to extract it.”
“I want to have this operation,” Susan said. Stacie turned to look at her sharply.
“Mum! When did you decide this?”
“I’ve been thinking about this ever since we got discharged, my dear. I can’t go on living like this. I feel tired and dizzy after a few footsteps and I can’t take it any longer.”
“But mum, you could die if you go ahead with this.”
“But I’d definitely die if I don’t, Stacie; there is a chance that I could survive the operation. Isn’t that right, doctor? They both turned to look at him.
“Well, the chances are quite slim…”
“Like how much exactly?”
“Like 15%.” Stacie’s face fell.
“No! Definitely not!” Stacie stood.
“I’m still going ahead with this, Stacie.”
“Oh no, you are not, mother! You’re not going to throw your life away with a weak 15% chance at survival.”
“Isn’t that better than a 100% surety death if I walk out of here?” Susan asked back.
“Have you discussed this with Jason?” Stacie asked, breathing heavily.
“This is my decision; Jason has no role to play in it.”
“I’ll take that as a no. This isn’t just about you, mother and you know it. We should all agree to this.”
“I’m the one going under the knife, right? So that makes it my decision.”
Her last words hang in the air for a few minutes, creating an awkward silence in the office. Stacie’s eyes began to sting, causing tears to form in them.
“I suggest you both calm down and talk about this issue thoroughly,” the doctor said, breaking the silence. Stacie dropped herself on the chair in despair. Susan reached out and touched her shoulder consolingly.
“I understand your concern, Stacie but you know very well there’s no other way out of this. It’s either 15% chance or none at all.”
“Then we can search for a surgeon who can assure us of a better survival chance than 15%, mum! Jason is actually doing that.”
“If I’m assured of just 15% here, I doubt we can find another hospital with better news. You know this is one of the best hospitals…”
“We should look outside the box, mother; we could search for surgeons outside the…”
“No Stacie; I’ve made up my mind. I’m doing this.”
“For goodness sake mum, please don’t play your selfish card here; not at such a critical moment. We all need to sit down and talk about this.”
“I agree,” the doctor chipped in. Both mother and daughter gave him a sideways glance, obviously irritated by his interruption.
“Let’s call Jason, mum and let’s talk about this. Please do this for me.”
“Okay.” Stacie smiled thankfully. “Thanks mum.”
“What’s going on?” Jason asked when he saw Stacie in the hallway.
“Hey Jason.” They hugged.
“It’s mum; she wants to go through with the operation.”
“What? And why didn’t she tell me about it?”
“I don’t know; my guess is that she wanted to come here by herself and do it. I insisted and came with her. We have to stop her, Jason. The doctor says there’s only 15% chance.”
“What? Where’s she now?”
“She’s in the office.” He entered. Stacie followed him inside.
“Mother, Stacie just told me why you’re here. Why didn’t you inform us of your decision earlier?” He sat down beside her.
“I didn’t want you two to worry, that’s why and besides I don’t like this feeling I’ve been having lately so I decided to take action.”
“But mum, 15% is too slim a chance to take. We could look for other…”
“You know this hospital is one of the best there is. I’ll be fine and if things don’t go well, I want you to forgive me of all the hurtful things I’ve done to you in the past and promise me you’d take care of Stacie…”
“Stop it, mother; stop talking as if you’re going to die.”
“But there is an 85% chance that I might not make it off the table and we need to be realistic about that.”
“Mum, can we just go home and talk about this?” Jason pleaded.
“Talk about what else, son? This is my decision and I’m not going to change it. Please doctor, get everything ready for the surgery.”
“Sure; I’ll first get the papers ready right away,” He said and got up. He left the office.
“Mum please… don’t do this. Who knows, you could spend months with us before…..you could die just hours from now. Don’t you want to spend more time with us?” Stacie begged as she knelt beside her mother.
“I don’t want you two to be left with sad memories of me being bedridden and burdensome during my last surviving days. Who knows, I could be part of the lucky 15% to survive this,” Susan said. Both Jason and Stacie were lost for words. They only stared at their mother with tears in their eyes. They stepped out of the office.
“We can’t let her kill herself like this, Jason,” Stacie said.
“What else can we do to change her mind, Stacie? I’ve said all I can think of and she’s still not budging. You’re more capable of changing her mind than I am. She will listen to you.”
“But she’s not! She’s totally driving me crazy!”
“I think we should let her do what she wants,” Jason said. Stacie looked at him sharply.
“What, are you also condemning her to death?”
“Of course not! She has made up her mind; the least we can do is to support and stand by her.”
“Yeah right; you wouldn’t mind if she dies because she isn’t your mother.”
“Excuse me? Don’t start your nonsense, Stacie. You know I care about mum as much as you do.”
“But she didn’t give birth to you. Now you know your mother is gone so if mum is to pass away, you wouldn’t mind because she’s already dead to you, right?”
“Hey….” He held her by the shoulders. “I understand you’re upset but that doesn’t give you the right to take it out on me. I’ve grown up knowing mum as my mother. She might not be my biological mother but she is the one who raised me so I’m equally her son as you are her daughter. If you believe there’s something you can do to change her mind, go for it but if there’s not, all we have left is to be with her.”
Stacie nodded, fighting the tears. Jason hugged her.
“Well it seems, the OR is completely booked till Friday, ma’am so we would have to wait till then,” the doctor informed them. Stacie sighed in relief.
“So you can all go home and talk more about this and let me know if I should book Friday…”
“Please do,” Susan said firmly. Jason and Stacie looked at her.
“All right, but let me know if there is a change of plans.”
“Thanks, doctor,” Jason said, shaking hands with hm.
Susan sat in her car and the driver drove off; Stacie joined Jason in his car and followed suit.
“I don’t understand why she’s so determined to do this thing,” Stacie wondered aloud.
“She wants to escape the pain she’d go through later…”
“And leave us as orphans? That’s selfish. After everything she has done to us, we deserve to spend as many days with her as possible now that it seems we are going to be okay.”
“I know….at least we have up to Friday to either find a better promising surgeon or to bring her back for this surgery.” Stacie sighed.
“It’s a shame; I was hoping that she’d be at our wedding, smiling and being happy for us….at last,” Jessie said sadly.
“I know; she’s so stubborn that she wouldn’t listen to us. And Stacie is slowly losing it. We can’t bear to lose another parent this same year….Stacie wouldn’t be able to stand it. It would affect her greatly,” Jason said with grave worry. Jessie sighed helplessly.
Jason entered the house. Stacie was in the living room, watching TV.
“Hey sis….whose car is it outside?” He asked.
“Barrister….why is he here?”
“Mum called for him. Who knows, she could also be writing up her final will,” she said with sarcasm. Jason looked upstairs.
“So she is preparing to leave us,” Jason said.
“I’m glad you’re finally beginning to see the light, brother.”
“This is becoming too much to bear.” A door opened upstairs. Jason looked up. Susan and the lawyer stepped out. They came down the stairs.
“Jason Archer, it’s been a while since we saw each other. Hope all is well,” the lawyer said, offering his hand. Jason took it.
“I should be asking you that…is all well?” Jason asked as he looked at his mother.
“Oh yes it is; your mother just wanted to insure that all her possessions are in order….you know for future’s sake.”
“Hope you are well, Miss. I heard you were discharged recently.”
“Yes I am well now by His grace, barrister.”
“Let me see you to your car.,” Susan said.
“Sure; till next time then,” the lawyer said and they went outside.
“Till next time….he said it with so much certainty. How I wish I wouldn’t have to see his face in this house ever again!” Stacie said. Jason sat down beside her.
“So haven’t you heard any good news yet?”
“I’ve contacted some of the best neurosurgeons and they all give similar slim chances of survival. I’m sorry.”
“But how much time does she have if she refuses to go on with the surgery?”
“Maximum of 6 months.”
“Oh no…but six months sound better than…nothing, brother. Ever since dad passed away, we’ve been arguing constantly and I don’t to lose her without making it up to her,” Stacie said with tears in her eyes. Jason put his arm around her and rubbed her back comfortingly.
“I know sis; because that’s what I wish for too.” Susan entered and walked towards them. No one spoke. She sighed.
“Listen, I know this must be hard for both of you but I don’t want to go on living like this. I’m in constant pain. It may seem like an easy way to stop the suffering but it’s not and I’m not being selfish here either. I wish I could spend more time with you and watch my grandson crawl and say his first words and get to know him.”
“And you’ll have the precious opportunity to do that for at least six months, mum. Please reconsider your decision,” Stacie pleaded.
“I have, my dear. And for your information, I invited Jessie over for dinner. There are some things I need to say to all of you.”
“Sounds like the last supper,” Stacie said.
“Maybe it is and I want to make it count,” Susan said and walked up the stairs. Tears started running down Stacie’s face. Jason pulled her to a hug.
“Jessie, Jason, I want to formally apologize to you both for making your lives so miserable. Jason, I’m sorry for trying to ruin your life. I wanted you to be wayward so your father wouldn’t include you in his will. I know it was selfish and evil and my love was just for your father’s money and I’m deeply sorry for that. Jessica, I’m sorry for treating you the way I did. I’m sorry for using you and then trying to get rid of my…grandson. My selfish love for money and power was insatiable and drove me to do those unthinkable things. Please forgive me,” Susan apologized with tears.
“It’s okay, Susan,” Jessie said as she held her hand.
“Stacie…I know I haven’t been the best mother in the world to you and your brother and I’m deeply sorry for that. We’ve always been at each other’s throats even before your father passed away and if I knew of this condition earlier, I wouldn’t have wasted all those precious moments we had. I really wish I could spend some quality time with all of you and who knows, I might if the operation is successful. Do you forgive me, Stacie?” Stacie looked at her tearfully as Susan held her hand.
“I just want to ask you one question, mum; what do you know about dad’s poisoning?”
Susan withdrew her hand slowly. All eyes were on her. Only the baby’s squirms and giggles were the sounds heard at the table. Susan swallowed.
“It was just a mistake of a diagnosis, right mother?” Jason asked, breaking the silence. Susan took her glass and drank up her wine. She placed the glass down with trembling hands.
“Well, about that, it was just an unfortunate incident…”
“What was, his passing or him being poisoned?” Stacie asked. Susan looked down.
“I think…we should all just leave her to speak, okay? This isn’t easy for her,” Jessica suggested.
“This is a family matter and I suggest you stay out of it,” Stacie snapped. Jessica sat back, stunned.
“Calm down, Stacie,” Jason said coolly.
“I’ll calm down when you tell your fiancée to mind her own business and stop butting in!”
“I’m sorry,” Jessie said softly.
“It’s okay, everyone! I…did it,” Susan intervened.
“You did what?” Stacie asked.
“I….poisoned…your dad. It was stupid and…bad, I know it now…”
“Is it because you’re dying that you now realized it was bad or you knew all along that it was?” Stacie asked.
“Stacie, just leave mum to speak,” Jason said.
“Of course I knew it was bad but my desire to own all that he had overpowered my conscience but yes you are right, the present reality that I’m in has taught me that I can’t run away from what I did. My misdeeds have caught up with me. I’m sorry for hurting all of you. I understand that it would be hard to forgive me but I’m pleading with you to; not for my sake but for yours. Whether you forgive me or not, I might end up dead on the operation bed but if you continue to hold me in your hearts, your lives will continue to be miserable and I do not wish that for any of you. For the sake of your own happiness and that of Junior, please forgive me.”
“Of course mother, we forgive you,” Jason said. Susan forced a smile.
“Thank you Jason; you’re such a wonderful son.”
“You brought me up well, mum.”
“I’ve forgiven so long ago, mum. If it weren’t for you, I wouldn’t have met your son to have given me this beautiful baby. It was all part of God’s plan, I believe,” Jessie said.
“Thank you Jessie and please take good care of Junior so he can grow up worthy of the family name.”
“Sure, mother.” Susan turned to look at Stacie. She was drumming on the table with her fingernails.
“Stacie?” Stacie raised her head.
“If you want my forgiveness then promise me you wouldn’t go for this operation. Promise me that I have at least six more months to be with you,” Stacie said.
“Stacie….” Stacie got up.
“It’s your decision, mum.” She began to walk away.
“Stacie, please don’t walk away,” Jason said. Stacie stopped and turned. She looked at Susan with tears on her face.
“You’re not going to give up, are you? Then I’ve no business being here.” Stacie ran up the stairs.” No one spoke for some time. Jason cleared his throat.
“Well mum, it is not really a bad idea to change your mind about the operation.”
“You see….ah….” Susan moaned, touching her forehead.
“Are you all right?” Jessie asked.
“My head…. I need to lie down.”
“Sure; let me help you.” Jason got up.
“I’ll take her to her room.” Jason helped her up the stairs to her room.
Jessie knocked on Stacie’s door. “Stacie?” She opened the door. She entered to find her sobbing on her pillow.
“Stacie dear,” she said sweetly as she sat beside her and run her fingers through her hair.
“I can imagine how much you’re hurting now knowing that tonight might be the last time you see your mother. But this is the more reason why you should make it worth it, dear. You should forgive her.”
“She doesn’t want to live, Jessie; she doesn’t want to live for us; she doesn’t want to fight death for our sake. She would rather surrender to death than fight it to be with us. Why should such a selfish mother deserve my forgiveness?”
“I know….but as she said downstairs, do it for your own sake. You might regret that you never let her go before she left us.”
“If she cares about me that much, then let her live for us. That is all I ask.”
“She’s not budging, is she?” Jason asked when she saw Jessie coming down the stairs. Jessie shook her head.
“She just wants your mother to choose you two over herself.”
“For once, she should show us she loves us. Who knows, she might change her mind tomorrow.”
“Yeah, she just might,” Jessie said, hugging him. He kissed her forehead.
The whole family stood around Susan’s bed the following day. Her hands were held by Jason and Jessie.
“We’ll be here waiting for you, mum. We know we’ll see you again soon,” Jason said.
“Hey baby, take my hand,” Susan said, holding her hand out to Stacie. Stacie took it, tears in her eyes. She bit her lips from crying out.
“I love you, sweetie.”
“I love you too, mummy.” Stacie said and hugged her.
“Please stay alive, okay?”
“We have to go now,” a nurse said.
“Okay.” They let go of her hands. Two nurses pushed her out of the room.
“I’ll keep you updated. Just stay calm and pray,” the doctor said.
“Please do all you can, doctor,” Jason requested.
“Sure.” He left. Jason hugged his sister.
“She’ll be fine, sis. Just stay strong.” Stacie nodded in tears.