by her mother, Phyllis Jean Flowers
Erin had a curiosity with words and
talked early. Before her first birthday, she was mimicking animals.
One day her daddy popped a new one, "What does Erin say?"
Instantly she replied: "Talk-talk-talk."
Besides happiness, from kindergarten on
there were several tragedies that made an imprint. At five, Erin was
ready for me to have another baby since her brother Kerwin was 2 1/2.
She was very disappointed that Kyle couldn't come home from the
hospital right away because he had developed Infant RDS. The next
spring, without warning, Erin and Kerwin were diagnosed with juvenile
diabetes. For the rest of their lives insulin shots were required.
Diabetes changed her social and mental attitude. Once a bubbly little
girl, she felt different from others and developed a low self-image.
On the good side, Erin clearly identified her feelings and needs,
which led to a deep understanding for others whatever they suffered.
By adolesence, Erin's body changed in
other ways not simply hormonal. Her silly imitations and giggles made
my sides ache. She couldn't stop buying shoes and clothes. Yet she
also would have tantrums for no reason. Disturbing thoughts and
feelings, as well as grandiose notions of life, accumulated in the
secrecy of Erin's mind.
Creative writing in 8th grade became a
release and favorite subject through high school.
Writing is a creative way
of throwing a fit.
Most people cuss and scream, and kick holes in doors.
Sometimes my words cry for me
Sometimes they laugh.
Whatever comes out through my
is something I needed to
So instead of breaking my pencil and giving up
I hold my breath
And wait eagerly to see
What part of me will be discovered today.
© Erin Flowers, 12/04/80
Erin was a good student, on the Honor
Roll, elected to the National Honor Society, member of the
International Thespian Society, received awards and trophies for
Creative Writing, English, Oratory, and Poetry Interpretation.
In the fall of 1981, she became a
freshman at McMurry College in Abilene, Texas to begin the studies
toward a vocation in child psychology. However, illness took her out
the second semester. When Erin was 19, mood swings accelerated, ending
in depression and a suicide attempt, in November of '82, with a weapon
every insulin-dependent diabetic has at their fingertips, a needle and
insulin. No one seemed to understand the pendulum inside her head,
until December when a well-known psychiatrist diagnosed manic
depression. Like diabetes, there was no cure, but managed with a
medication, lithium. Erin responded quickly to the treatment plan, and
didn't write much poetry after that.
It happened so suddenly the last
Thursday of March 1983, when Erin came down with a sore throat, felt
achy, had a fever, and a cough--just the flu, we thought. By Saturday
evening she couldn't breathe, and in the middle of the night was in
the Intensive Care Unit of a Dallas hospital. An x-ray revealed
pneumonia. Oxygen helped, but three days later Erin was fighting for
her life on a respirator. Absolutely, the most terrible experience of
my life was seeing my precious daughter hooked to machines. The huge
blue tube from the respirator taped to her cheeks and pushed down her
throat was cruel. I didn't understand the lines on the monitors, but
was afraid to ask. In plain language, I was afraid of everything I
The next two weeks Erin's condition was
berserk. One hour the doctor or nurse reported a slight improvement.
The next was the opposite. A respiratory therapist said too much
oxygen was life threatening, too little she would die. I thought how
diabetes control was similar, too much insulin almost killed her, too
little would produce a coma. The medical team, led by respiratory
specialist Dr. Ryan, seemed puzzled about what was wrong, and yet this
was a hospital in Dallas that treated respiratory disease. He asked
all kinds of questions about where she had been, what she had eaten,
kinds of body sprays, personal health items, and if she had animals
(and yes, we had 3 Siamese house cats). I called Baylor Medical School
to ask about him. The reply was that Dr. Ryan was well-known, and
would give Erin the best care. Dr. Ryan called doctors across the
country for consultation, even the National Institutes of Health.
About a week later he gathered Erin's dad and me, and my sons Kerwin
and Kyle (Erin's younger brothers) and put his hand on my shoulder.
There was good news. NIH granted special authority to have a new
experimental respirator flown from Houston. There were only three such
machines in the world. It was landing in Dallas as he spoke. His
bedside manner was warm. On Easter morning, the beginning of the
second week, I'll never forget that Dr. Ryan came in, turned TV on,
put the speaker by Erin's ear and said, "Your friend is
preaching." He must have met Erin's minister. I really don't know
how he knew where Erin went to church. Dr. Ryan gained her confidence
from the start. With the first word he spoke to Erin and his stature,
I just know she thought of the leprechauns still hanging at home from
her St. Patrick's Party the week before going to the hospital.
It was quite evident that everyone
loved my daughter. The nurses taped her cards on the wall at the foot
of her bed, played Erin's favorite songs on a tape recorder I had
taken, explained every procedure, and tried their best to be gentle
and make her comfortable. The medical staff and Dr. Ryan were always
hopeful, while at the same time were honest about the gravity of the
condition. He finally told us what he suspicioned, that the culprit
was ARDS, adult respiratory distress syndrome. I couldn't help but
recall Kyle's birth. That little fellow had to fight such a similar
complication, infant respiratory distress syndrome. His outcome gave
me hope for Erin.
The second week passed when the morning
of April 11th, the phone rang. Dr. Ryan was on the other end, and said
Erin's condition had suddenly dropped. Five minutes later, before
someone could pick me up, he called back, quite choked up. Erin's
heart had stopped. She had taken her last breath. Previously we had
told him if that should happen to let her go, for it would be God's
When I arrived at the hospital, my
daughter was lying on the same bed where I'd stood or sat beside her
for two weeks. She looked so peaceful. The blue tube was out, her face
had been washed, the machinery was gone. I sat on the bed, ran my
fingers through her soft, brown hair, and kissed her cheeks. I didn't
want to leave, but someone probably noticed how weak I was and
suggested it. "See you later, sweet Erin", the hardest
goodbye I've ever said.
Arriving home, I first went to her
closet to put away the nightgown not even worn. On the floor inside
the door was a cardboard box. Impelled to know its contents, and
feeling Erin's permission, I discovered hand-written papers. It was
proof that Erin's dream of becoming a writer had been fulfilled, to
publish a book someday. Her thoughts and feelings left in poetry were
a legacy instead. -- A Gift of MORE THAN 300 POEMS!