Remembering Shan

Shannon Nissa Bailey Powers ("Shan") spent her life, from infancy on, in and out of Boston Children’s Hospital for Cystic Fibrosis treatment. She died from complications of Cystic Fibrosis five and a half weeks short of her twenty-fifth birthday. During her last year, she was intermittently an in-patient for more than six months.

In a letter to the Attorney General, her mother and father wrote:

"Over the years, Shan, and we, as a family, had Prouty as the one place at Children's where through its comfort and quiet and flora and places to sit, be together, spread a blanket on the green, where healing flourished in the soul. Shan napped on the grasses, smiled shade-sheltered beneath the trees, as a toddler and a teen played hide and seek with the little critters, smelled the good good wafts of nature in bloom and in snow--for nearly twenty-five years.

"Mere hours before taking her last breaths amongst us, we who love her ever, Shan sat in Prouty's embrace reading One Hundred Years of Solitude.  It was November and she warmed herself with oodles of wool and a cup of hot tea as she sat there reading, being at peace.  

"And we who were with, stayed too, there in Prouty's embrace."

To honor Shan, we wanted to share both her self-portrait, which she painted at Children's not long before being rushed to intensive care, and a piece of her beautiful writing. The piece we share below is a eulogy she wrote for her grandmother. Her mother writes that the eulogy "is related to Prouty Garden through the sense of beauty Shannon experienced amongst the trees, stone animals, flowers, meadow, and delights[...]  Shan so eloquently expresses this sense of beauty, mystery, and joy in her eulogy remembering her grandmother--old trees, being at peace, and honoring all that we love--the Prouty experience transformed into a loving, enduring, keeping and honoring."

Self Portrait by Shannon Nissa Bailey Powers Infinitely Loved and Loving January 1, 1979-Midnight, November 17, 2003 Painted at Boston Children's Hospital November, 2003

Self Portrait by Shannon Nissa Bailey Powers
Infinitely Loved and Loving
January 1, 1979-Midnight, November 17, 2003
Painted at Boston Children's Hospital
November, 2003

Eulogy for Grammie, 
Florence Bailey
by Shannon Nissa Bailey Powers
December 10, 1997

Grammie Flossie died today.  My mother called me just as I called her.  Kim answered when I called the hospital.  The Little Drummer Boy was the only sound apart from ours.  All I could muster: I love you Grammie, very much.  Her trembling exhale, I can only hope, in recognition.  

I have missed her for awhile now.  

All of us waiting, I so far away for years.  Then the news her heart was calm and her rings removed.  Tildy says he should–he would give them to my mother.  These tangible motions of closure.  They made me sad.  

And I remember cracking acorns, down from giant trees along the sidewalk.  What was with that? It’s all I ever wanted during my visits as a little girl.  To stomp acorns with my grandmother.  

I remember her damn teeth, clacking and jangling, tea cups, and scrambled eggs on toast.  All hers, only mine to hear in the gloaming of the morning.  To love.  Peach sweaters and pearls, all so tiny.  How tiny her frame must have been then–all wrapped in white sheets, toes dainty lumps.  I hear her hair was gray and her face was not olive, only pale.  All I know is pretty shoes walking with mine.  

“You were my first Granddaughter!”  and I would sit in Granddadda Wes’s bear-skinned rocking chair trying not to prick myself with the skeleton puffer fish.  “Let’s walk to the Bayshore.”  Oh, let’s walk along the Bayshore.  And all those stories, I asked to hear over and again, laying between her and Aunt Louise–Picking blueberries with her brothers till the hornets came; elder siblings wiping the rouge from her cheeks–how it mortified her.  All those stories had to be true–Lord knows they were the same every time. And the first picture I ever saw of her youth, too young to realize a grandma could be young.  Beautiful–hair up–on the bow of a canoe somewhere in a river up North.

And I know of my mother loving her mother.  She would call to listen–respond to each whimsy. Bought her pink satin slippers, just for her to have even if not for walking.

And I know it is not a tragedy.  Flossie led a full life.  Graceful funny, sharp, and lovely.  

There are a few things I have still to say Grammie.  You would have loved Patrick, and I am so happy!  I want to snuggle in your bed–like school girls you’d say–(of course, I was a school girl) and laugh about my smitten glances, my tumbling into love.

I’m sorry you were sick for so long.  You are my childhood, so much of me goes on without you–broken.  I still think that the little girl with the curl in the middle of her forehead was never quite as nice as me, and I was never that naughty, and thanks for teaching me to give insulin shots to rotten oranges . . . that should come in handy?

But I am not grieving for that.  I grieve for the Spanish moss always hung, silver-green webs from those giant trees.  For they will not have your step to cradle from above any more.  I grieve for lace curtains which do not drape glowing–yellow teardrop shadows with you away.  I grieve for the Bayshore–its sad absence of our hands entwined traveling its wall.

I believe in our lives we pass many things, none of which continues untouched.  I grieve for all those who will not be moved by you.  I grieve for them, and me–and us–who have lost a graceful wind, and whose edges now go unstirred. forever still, right where you touched them.

I have missed you for awhile Grammie.  But I will go on, broken parts of me–as we humans do, continue and remember.

Know that you existed.  Bright and small and very close to me.