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.
I write.
Sometimes my words cry for me
Sometimes they laugh.

Whatever comes out through my pencil
        is something I needed to express.
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 saw!

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 definitive.

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!