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For Forty-Nine Years I’ve Had the Reaper Breathing Down the Back of My Neck

So I put on my big girl pants and flipped him the bird

By Sandi ParsonsPublished 2 years ago 7 min read
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Photo Credit: Sandi Parsons, manipulated in Canva

1st February 1973

Mr. Morrigan

We are pleased to inform you that the department of Scythes and Reaping has accepted your application for the position of Grim Reaper. Your robes and scythe will be couriered.

During your apprenticeship, Reaper Kalinda will be your mentor. You can expect your first assignment soon.

Yours in scything

Head Reaper Ernaline

3rd February 1973

Head Reaper Ernaline

Baby girl born late in 1972 with Cystic Fibrosis (as yet undiagnosed). Mother has seen several doctors. They all have the same message for her — you’re just a ‘nervous new mum.’ This could be an easy first case for my apprentice.

Thoughts?

Reaper Kalinda

28th February 1973

Apprentice Reaper Morrigan

Your apprenticeship case has been assigned. DF508, a baby girl with Cystic Fibrosis. The current life expectancy is seven years, but many children with this disease succumb early. Make sure you keep track of your case at all times. Send word when you believe death to be imminent, and I will assist in your first reaping.

Yours in scything

Reaper Kalinda

31st March 1973

Hey there, Reaper Kalinda

All is quiet on the home front. So far, I have spent a month shadowing my case — nothing of note has occurred. The mother continues to press doctors but still no diagnosis. Health status of my case remains stable and well.

So you just want me to sit and wait, right? And how often would you like me to report?

Yours in apprentice scything

Apprentice Reaper Morrigan

1st April 1973

Apprentice Reaper Morrigan

Suggest you report any significant event.

Yours in scything

Reaper Kalinda

30th December 1973

Apprentice Reaper Morrigan

For accountability, I now suggest you report yearly in the absence of significant events. This, of course, will change once the progression of Cystic Fibrosis starts in case DF508. Progression is inevitable. A little patience will see you through your apprenticeship.

Yours in scything

Reaper Kalinda

31st December 1973

Reaper Kalinda

Nothing significant to report for case DF508. Do you want my report to contain a yearly breakdown? Cause it seems I have some time on my hands here. Just saying.

Yours in apprentice scything

Apprentice Reaper Morrigan

31st December 1974

Reaper Kalinda

A diagnosis was made early this year for my case DF508, and treatment commenced. So yeah, that’s a bummer. But really, the treatment’s just going to delay the inevitable — it’s not like it's a cure.

The doctor predicted that DF508 has a 50% chance of making it to thirteen. I thought seven years was the goal — but I can work with thirteen. I’m patient. And I’m getting pretty good at playing Solitaire too.

Yours in apprentice scything

Apprentice Reaper Morrigan

31st December 1977

Reaper Kalinda

No progression of Cystic Fibrosis seen in case DF508 during the previous twelve months. GI issues tend to dominate with little lung involvement. That’s okay. If she can’t maintain her weight, things will go sideways when her lung disease kicks in.

Yours in apprentice scything

Apprentice Reaper Morrigan

P.S. I can now win at Solitaire blindfolded. Yes, sirree! I am THAT good.

31st December 1980

Reaper Kalinda

No progression of Cystic Fibrosis seen in my case during the previous twelve months. GI issues remain at the forefront over lung disease impairment. 50% chance of making it to thirteen.

It’s okay. I’m patient. I’ve got this.

Quick fact. If there were an Olympic medal for the “Most Games of Solitaire Won in a Row,” I’d take out the gold. Pity I’m ineligible for Guinness World Record.

Yours in apprentice scything

Apprentice Reaper Morrigan

31st December 1985

Reaper Kalinda

I have something to report! Hallelujah, happy days. I am so excited I’ve got dance fever. I could take on John Travolta on the dance floor.

DF508’s first hospitalization for IV antibiotics occurred this year. Case treated the hospital visit more like a stay at camp, which I find most perplexing. Anyway, the teenage years are here — hooray!

It’s all starting to happen. Finally. Which is kind of a shame because I just started kicking butt using two cards decks of Solitaire.

Yours in apprentice scything

Apprentice Reaper Morrigan

15th January 1986

Apprentice Reaper Morrigan

I do apologize. This was supposed to be a quick case with easy reaping. A normal apprenticeship does not take this long. Please know that everyone at the office of Scythes and Reaping is impressed with your patience. Patience that will soon be rewarded — the teenage years claim many children with Cystic Fibrosis.

Yours in scything

Reaper Kalinda

31st December 1992

Reaper Kalinda

Yeah. Those teenage years were tough. But my girl, she’s tougher.

Yours in apprentice scything

Apprentice Reaper Morrigan

31st December 1995

Reaper Kalinda

So how does a girl who was only given a 50% chance of living to thirteen not only make it to twenty-three but do so while pregnant?

Yours in apprentice scything

Apprentice Reaper Morrigan

P.S. Do not mistake my question for a riddle. Genuine question.

31st December 2002

Reaper Kalinda

So yeah. Those statistics you sent to me about women with Cystic Fibrosis only surviving five years post-birth. Nobody told my girl.

Yours in apprentice scything

Apprentice Reaper Morrigan

16th September 2005

Reaper Kalinda

I’m sorry!

I thought it was time. She coughed up nearly half a liter of blood.

There was blood EVERYWHERE!

And it’s not like I’ve been panicking and calling you at the drop of a hat.

Yes, maybe I should have known by now that she’s a tough cookie, but you said I’d only be waiting seven years — maybe thirteen at the MAX. It’s been thirty-three years.

I thought she was going to bleed out. How was I supposed to know she’d drop her son at school then drive herself to the hospital?

I mean, who does that?

Yours in apprentice scything

Apprentice Reaper Morrigan

P.S. If I weren’t waiting to reap her, I’d kind of admire the guts it took to get this far …

31st December 2009

Reaper Kalinda

Thirty-seven long years. No one can say I’m not a patient man. Finally, we are getting somewhere. This winter DID NOT go well for my girl. Which is good news for me. Three cases of flu. One after the other. Wham, wham, wham!

Her lungs took an absolute nosedive. I am literally sitting on the edge of my seat here. The game is afoot!

Yours in apprentice scything

Apprentice Reaper Morrigan

1st January 2010

Apprentice Reaper Morrigan

Your last report sounded promising. Reaping time is on the horizon.

As you are aware you currently hold the status of the longest-serving apprentice Reaper. Here at the office of Scythes and Reaping we’ve started making preparations for your graduation to full Reaper staus. We’re planning quite the party!

Yours in scything

Reaper Kalinda

31st December 2011

Reaper Kalinda

Yep. So I thought this was going to be the year for sure. Respiratory Failure Stage 1 quickly progressed to Respiratory Failure Stage 2.

By May, she had three weeks left. Tops. I followed her everywhere. She didn't twitch a muscle without me breathing down her neck. A couple of times, I’m sure that dog of hers saw me. A ferocious beast, that one.

Then the phone call came. Lungs. Donated lungs. So there she was, laying on the operating slab while the surgeons were double-checking those donated lungs. First of she said, “If I die on this table, it’s okay. I've had a good life.”

And I rubbed my hands in glee. My time in the sun was only heartbeats and a surgeon’s scalpel away.

Then she looked me straight in the eye. I swear she did. And she said, “But if I wake up with new lungs, I have a life that I want back. It will be game on.”

Then she flipped me the bird.

Me! An apprentice Reaper!!

It’s okay, though; I’m going to have the last laugh. Donated lungs have a short life expectancy. On average, five years tops. (I did my own research — are you impressed?) I just have to hang in a little longer. Rejection will take her out for sure.

Yours in apprentice scything

Apprentice Reaper Morrigan

31st December 2014

Reaper Kalinda

When DF508 was diagnosed with Penicillium marneffei last year, I was alert but not alarmed. After all, I’ve had premature excitement before. But when the doctors announced that it had a fatality rate of 99.9%, I perked up.

You know what happened, right? Yep. My girl kicked that one in the butt too. Her medical team got all nerded out and even wrote a paper about their ‘successful treatment protocols.’

I know. I know. I’ve hung in there this long. Surely my chance to do my first reaping has to be just around the corner. The trouble is I have no idea which corner. So I have to lurk around all of them.

Yours in apprentice scything

Apprentice Reaper Morrigan

31st December 2020

Reaper Kalinda

COVID-19 Yeah, Baby! That’s what I thought. My girl is in the HIGHEST risk category. It should be my time to shine.

But no. The Australian government wasn’t mucking about. They locked things down nice and tight. And my girl, she put on her mask, her big-girl pants with sanitizer in the pocket and, went out and faced the world.

I’m pretty sure she’s cheating. If no one else. Me. She’s cheating me from my first reaping,

I think it’s going to take more than a pandemic to knock this girl out.

Yours in apprentice scything

Apprentice Reaper Morrigan

20th July 2021

Reaper Kalinda

Delta was a nice curveball. But my girl is vaccinated now.

We’ve been through a high-risk pregnancy, respiratory failure, transplant surgery, a fungi with a seriously high fatality rate, and now a pandemic. Not just any pandemic, either. A pandemic with a virus that’s a lung eater.

And still, she lives—the girl who lived, despite everything that’s been thrown at her.

So that’s it. I quit.

Don't try to talk me out of this. I’m clearly not cut out for it.

Yours

Mr. Morrigan, former apprentice scythe

📚 Writer, Storyteller, Librarian 🎤 Speaker🌹Cystic Fibrosis Warrior 💞 Lung Transplant Recipient 🤱Mother

Sandi Parsons has been defying her expiration date for nearly fifty years.

This Hermit Crab Personal Essay was first published in Inspired Writer

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About the Creator

Sandi Parsons

Sandi Parsons lives and breathes stories as a reader, writer, and storyteller. Subscribe to my newsletter & receive my free ebook The Last Walk → https://bit.ly/3cGvsPB

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