Because I couldn't finish this story to little Johnny
Today I will share a painful memory with you
This painful memory stayed with me throughout my nursing career and I'll never forget this little boy who loved listening to my stories.
As a young nurse, I worked in the pediatric unit for a short while. Johnny was a nine-year-old cute as a button little boy who had leukemia. The medications and treatments wiped him out physically and emotionally but he still had a sweet smile for everyone who entered his room.
Restrained sobs choked me every time I saw his pale, angelic little face and heard him say, "Hello, beautiful. Give me that shot quickly and tell me a story." (his father was a flirt and he imitated him by calling the nurses beautiful or gorgeous.)
Our storytelling sessions started when he had a very bad day and the medications didn't work to suppress his nausea and headache. All I could do was sit by his bed, hold his hand and wait for the stronger medication to kick in. To break the silence and get his attention away from heaving and pain, I started reciting a fairy tale, "Once upon a time..."
As I continued the story, his breathing slowed and he hung onto every word seemingly forgetting his pain and mystery for a few minutes. The story with medicine became our routine and one morning, because I didn't remember any more fairy tales that I had read as a child, I started telling him my childhood memories.
One of my fondest memory was how my best friend and I saved four drowning kittens when a cruel neighbor threw them into the river.
Johnny grew weaker and weaker and could listen to the story only a few minutes at a time, but he remembered the next day where we left off. When we got to the part where my mom prepared a wicker basket for the kittens, Johnny's eyes lit up and said, "A kosarnyi kiscica" which means "A basketful of kittens."
When I wrote this story into a children's book last year, in memory of little Johnny, I gave the title to the book he came up with: A Basketful of Kittens.
I never had a chance to tell him the end of the story. There were only a few minutes left to tell him how Daniel and I dealt with the neighborhood bullies, but when I entered little Johnny's room the next morning, his bed was empty.
This book is for you little Johnny!
Read a few pages from the book
Erika M Szabo
Author of epic fantasy/magical realism novels and children's books, Publishing Coach at
Golden Box Books Publishing
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