‘There Are Things You See With Your Body’

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In this harrowing excerpt from his memoir, Once More We Saw Stars, Jayson Greene recounts his shock, disbelief, and grief following a freak accident involving his two-year-old daughter, Greta. Read the excerpt at Vulture.

We follow into a corner room, maybe 12 by 12, with a table in the middle and doctors and nurses crowding around it. In the center of it is Greta, stripped down to her diaper and pitifully tiny, her eyes closed and her mouth open. I watch as team members lift her arms and legs like she’s a sock puppet. I remember seeing the upper roof of her mouth, the pearly islands of her teeth. I have no memory of the injury on her head; my mind either refuses to note it or has erased it.

There are things you see with your body, not with your eyes. Stepping away, I feel something evaporate, a quantum of my soul, perhaps, burning up on contact. I am lighter, somehow immediately less me, as if some massive drill has bored into my bones, extracting marrow. I glance at Stacy, gray and motionless in a hallway chair, and see the same life force exiting her frame. Susan is on a stretcher down another hallway, out of our sight. We wait.

He lowers his bony frame into the chair next to us and clasps his hands between his knees. “I wish I had better news for you. We removed as much of her skull as we could to allow the brain to swell, but the bleed was rather severe.”

I feel him choosing his words as carefully and severely as possible: Our false hope is a blockage, and his job is to cut it out at the root and leave nothing behind to grow.

“So you’re saying that her recovering would be sort of … a miracle situation?” Stacy asks.

“I want you to be aware,” she adds more gently as we sob, “that there is a lot of swelling. You should know that before going in to see her.” She sits and listens silently to the sound of our hearts splitting open in that room. Then she stands up: “Let me know when you are ready to go in.”

Read the excerpt