"Julias live for an approximate thirty-five days."
Dr. Johnson was referring to a type of orange butterfly species, scientifically known as Dryas julia. Noting the similarity in names, Julia smiled to herself as she quickly jotted the piece of fact down on the last page of her thick, almost worn out notebook, which was brimming with lecture notes. She was a biology student, majoring in entomology, and was top in all her classes. She could always be seen in the library, with her nose in a book, and sitting beside her, books half a metre high, or in her room, after sundown, burning the midnight oil. There was nothing new or unusual about Julia forgetting her meals.
“Class dismissed. Please don’t forget, the assignment’s due in a week.”
Julia sighed heavily. For the past three weeks or so, she had not been feeling very well. Loss of appetite, pain in her abdomen, and particularly a fever had been affecting her studies. Even today, she had half a mind not to attend lectures, but thinking of her recent academic progress, she forced herself to go. Julia suddenly remembered that she had an appointment with the doctor today, for her test results. She was certain that nothing was seriously wrong, that it was just overwork and stress.
.~.~.~.~.~.That night, Julia did not eat dinner, nor did she study. She had been in bed for the past five hours crying her eyes out. The doctor’s words still lingered in her mind. You have about three to six months left. She had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, which had reached advanced stage and had metastasised. There was nothing much that could be done – just pain management. After a couple of hours more of uncontrollable sobbing, Julia eventually fell asleep.
Emotionally and mentally drained, she slept for the next twelve hours, only to be awakened by the beeping sound coming from her mobile phone indicating that the battery had gone flat. For a moment, she wondered whether she just had a dreadful dream. She rose from bed and saw capsules strewn all over her room, and an empty container labelled Vicoprofen lying next to the CPU. A sudden sharp pain in her abdomen caused her to bend over and fell to her knees. She promptly grabbed the nearest capsule, popped it into her mouth and downed a gulp of Snapple. For about ten minutes, the pain paralysed her. She had never experienced such intense pain before; it was her first. After it had subsided, one-by-one, she picked the capsules and put them back into the container. In some way or another, the long period of unconsciousness and that first excruciating pain, made her philosophical about her fate.
Julia decided not to turn up for any of her classes that day. In fact, she had made up her mind to discontinue her education. Considering that she had only at least three months to live, she wanted to use whatever time she had left to do things that she had always wanted to do, and the things that she should do before she died. It was now or never. After a quick shower, and putting on her favourite T-shirt and jeans, she went to a park, chose a bench to sit on, took out her notepad and a pen, and started thinking. After pondering for quite some time, she began listing down.
1. Tell my friends that I love themFor a moment, Julia paused. She didn’t even know why she wrote that last phrase. For all that she knew she had never known a mother’s love. She did have a mother, adoptive mother, to be precise. But, although she was physically “available”, mentally and emotionally, she was not. Rosalind had had amnesia due to a car accident since Julia was two. A year after the accident, out of frustration, Julia’s father placed his wife in an institution. He sent Julia to aunt Diane, drove away and never returned. Being a mother with six children, Diane never had time for Julia.
2. Write thank you letters to all my teachers
3. Write a letter to mom and dad
4. Find homes for at least 10 stray cats
5. Jungle trekking
6. Visit the Butterfly Park
7. Sign up for organ donation
7. Sell stuff that I don’t need - money donate to charity
8. Feel mother’s love
.~.~.~.~.~.“Goodbye little fella… I’m gonna miss you…”
“Are you alright? You look rather pale.”
“Yea… I’m… I’m fine…”
Slowly but steadily, Julia walked to her car and drove away. She had been feeling terrible that day, but at least she was glad that she had found homes for twenty-eight cats. Julia glanced at her notepad lying on the passenger seat. Only one more left to do.
Room 79. Julia walked tentatively to the woman looking blankly out the window.
She turned and looked at Julia.
“Mom… It’s, it’s me… Julia… Your daughter. Do you remember me?”
“I don’t know you. Go away…,” her face without warmth.
In dismay, Julia looked down and nodded, as tears streamed down her cheeks. Rosalind just stared at her vacantly.
“I love you, mom…,” Julia said between sobs. She placed an envelope on her bed, took one last look at the distant face and dashed out of the room.
As Julia drove, thoughts were running through her mind. No one loves me. Not daddy, not mom, not even my real mother. That’s why I was given away. And that’s why dad never came back. Suddenly, sharp pains were piercing her abdomen. Julia lost control of the car, and crashed through the rail of the bridge. Her car nosedived and plunged into the river. As water flowed into the car, Julia struggled to open the door, but somehow it was jammed. Soon after, her grip onto the door handle loosened, her vision became dimmer and dimmer … pitch dark.
Julia opened her eyes. It was completely dark. Flashbacks from the accident played in her mind. Suddenly, she realised that she was submerged in water, and enclosed in some kind of a sack. Julia kicked and pounded, but somehow she felt she had little strength, and the struggle enervated her. She tried to shout for help. However, she simply lost the ability to speak. She just did not remember how. She stopped momentarily trying to make sense of the situation she was in. Then, Julia came to realize that she was not breathing. Am I dead? Is this what it’s like to be dead? Was I killed in the accident? Where am I? Suddenly, Julia heard voices. They were distant and muffled. Minutes later, she found herself being pushed through a tunnel, and saw light at the end of it. Julia became even more bemused than ever. Am I really dead? The light became brighter, so bright that it blinded her. Seconds later, Julia suddenly felt cold. She opened her eyes and saw a blurred vision of a masked face. Then, as if life was blown into her, she took her first breath, and without knowing why, she had this urge to scream. Much to Julia’s surprise, her scream sounded like a crying baby.
“You have a beautiful baby girl! Here you are… What’s her name?”
“Julia. Yes… Julia…”
At hearing her name, Julia stopped crying and opened her eyes. She saw a lady’s face, looking lovingly at her, brimming with joy, tears rolling down her cheeks.
“Hey… Mommy’s been waiting for you, darling…”
How Julia wished she could utter words to express how she missed her, and how she always wanted to meet her – even if it was only a dream…
.~.~.~.~.~.Two days later, they were on their way home. At a distance, a couple of motorcyclists were overtaking and racing one another. They were obviously having fun, and were oblivious of their surrounding. As their excitement intensified, one overtook the other, and sped to the maximum. He looked over his shoulder to his friend, not looking where he was going. CRASH!!! Julia was alright, but her mother sustained serious injuries. Julia cried dreading the worst.
“Julia… I… always… love you…” her mother said in a near whisper.
Having no relatives to care for Julia, she was placed in the hospital while waiting for the social services. It had been three days, and Julia had not been feeding well. When she was not asleep, she was always crying, and nothing could console her.
Two levels up the building, Rosalind was lying in bed. She just had a heart transplant. Although she could be considered incredibly lucky to have received a heart, she wasn’t feeling any better. Young and recently divorced, she could not sense anything, except utter loneliness and emptiness. Rosalind was awakened by a light, delicate touch on her wrist. It was an orange butterfly.
“How extraordinary … and beautiful.”
The butterfly fluttered around in front of her for a moment before winging its way out of the door. For no apparent reason, as if mesmerised by its beauty, Rosalind followed it. It flew all the way down to the nursery, and finally it settled on Julia’s forehead. Almost instantaneously, it fluttered away. As soon as Rosalind laid her eyes on crying Julia, her heart went out to her. Gingerly, she picked her up and cradled her tenderly in her arms as tears streamed down her cheeks. For a moment, she did not know how to soothe Julia. Then, she remembered a song she heard from a movie.
“Come stop your crying it will be all rightJulia recognised that voice. She stopped crying and looked up. Mommy… It’s you...
Just take my hand hold it tight
I will protect you from all around you
I will be here don’t you cry…”
Rosalind could not understand why she had so much love for Julia. It was as though her heart had always loved her. I’m truly grateful to the donor of this heart. She gave me life and a heart to love someone.
Rosalind planted a delicate kiss on Julia’s forehead. When Julia opened her eyes again, she found herself on a hospital bed, feeling incredibly weak, with the pain persistent in her stomach. However, her heart was brimming with bliss, knowing that she had not only one, but two mothers who truly loved her...