Halloween is supposed to be a time for unexpected frights, but this year it turned out to be more surreal than I could have imagined. Perhaps a more apt title for this post would have been “To Hell and Back.”

During the previous week, my beautiful young daughter had been complaining of a headache behind her right eye. It sounded like the migraines her father suffers from occasionally. He suggested some remedies that work for him, and then we forgot about it for a couple of days. She called us back to say the pain had gotten much worse and that she was going blind! She was rushed to a local emergency room, where they told her to go immediately to Wills Eye Hospital in Philadelphia. By then, last Sunday, she was completely blind in the one eye and the pain was excruciating. She was given an MRI of her brain, chest X-Rays and every blood test imaginable. Reports were coming back that two likely possibilities were a brain tumor or MS. I have never experienced such fear, terror and dread in my life. We were scared to death. She was admitted to the hospital with optic neuritis, an inflammation of the optic nerve, and administered an IV of steroids. Apparently a myriad of ailments and diseases could cause it, sometimes with no known cause.

Meanwhile, my aged mother had been in a slow decline for months, but had just had a serious stroke, at the same time my daughter’s headache began. I had moved back home to take care of my mother two years ago, and I’d been intimately involved in every aspect of her care.
As the week progressed, my daughter gradually began to see shadows and light, and some of the test results began coming back. With each bit of good news we breathed a sigh of relief. All the while my mother’s death was becoming more imminent.

By the end of the week my daughter was released from the hospital, with all of the tests coming back negative, and her sight gradually improving. Sadly my mom passed away just past midnight on Saturday October 29th, surrounded by her loved ones. I held my poor mother’s hand, which had become blackened with necrosis. And as I watched her take her last breath, I felt as if a door was closing while another opened. It is the right order of things for a child to bury a parent, not the other way.

After it was all over, the next morning there was a snow storm, the first in over 50 years in the month of October. The heavy wet snow weighed down branches of the trees, still with all of their Autumn leaves, and they fell all around us. The electricity went out for three days. We were left in the dark, and cold with no distractions, only the thoughts of what we had just been through. The power finally was restored, on Halloween.

And so here as a catharsis, I’ve created with a little ink, pencil, charcoal, scissors and glue my account of a week of “Scary Scares”, or to “Hell and Back.”