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32 Kim - Goodbye and Hello Kim had a life that was very different from many other children, but she was content to have her brother as her only friend. Alas, the sad day came when it was time for An to go to the hospital. When An was born, Lilly held her son in her arms. Mother and son gazed upon each other for a few minutes. Lilly was very happy, and thought her son was exceptionally calm for a newborn baby. She named him An, which means peace. An was a happy, compliant baby, but as he grew, Lilly noticed he was not developing the way his older sister Kim had done. An was having trouble walking. He seemed to fall down too much. Lillys mother instinct told her something was not quite right, and so she started to take An to doctors. After many doctor visits, finally a blood test revealed the cause of Ans slowness: he was born with a disease called muscular dystrophy. As An grew older, the disease progressed quickly. An had to work twice as hard to do anything most children could easily do. Some things, like running, or riding a bike, or playing in the neighbourhood with other children his age, he could not do at all. An did not feel sorry for himself. He admired his sister, he loved his mother and father, and in the peaceful manner of his nature, he accepted the limitations of his life. Sadly, the limitations grew more intrusive, and over the years, An could do less and less for himself. One day, An became ill. He had a cough that kept him in bed and hurt his chest to breathe. Because An was always a fairly weak boy, his parents took him to the hospital immediately. The hospital thought it was best for An to stay until his cough disappeared. For a few weeks, Kim would take the city bus after school to St. Josephs hospital where An was staying while he was ill. The nurses at the hospital were kind and made sure that An always got two suppers one for An, and one for Kim. An did not eat very much of his supper, and he couldnt really make his hands grip the spoon to bring food to his mouth anyway, so Kim helped him by spooning the applesauce and chocolate pudding into his mouth for him. An had been in the hospital for a month when Kim arrived after school one day to find him looking completely healthy. It was truly a miracle! Instead of being sick in

bed with a cough, as he had been yesterday, An was sitting in the chair by the window in his room, looking out at the trees and smiling. An, youre all better! Kim bounced up to her brother, ready to give him a big hug. Before she could reach him, she was swept off her feet in a bear hug from her mother, who squeezed Kim so tightly she couldnt breathe for a moment. Mother, isnt it wonderful, An is cured! Kim gazed into her mothers face her heart skipped a beat. Lilly looked so sad, tears were running down her cheeks. In all the years Lilly had cared for her children, this was the first time Kim had seen her mother cry. Kim, my only girl, my only child, Lilly murmured as she hugged her daughter. What about An, mother? Hes right there, hes all better! Kim pointed to the chair, to her smiling brother. Kim, no one is in that chair. Your brother has passed on to the next world. He is no longer with us. Kim, confused, looked at the chair again. It was empty. And then she understood, her brother had said goodbye. He had become one of the invisible people. Kim, in her experience with invisible people, did not completely understand her mothers grief. But Mom, we will see An again. He will come to visit us. I saw him just now, he will be back. Lilly could not speak. She simply kissed her daughter on the forehead. At this moment, Li Zijian came into the room and put his arms around his little family. He gently guided his wife and his daughter out to the car, and drove them home. That night, Kim woke up feeling a bump on her feet, and she heard the familiar giggle of her brother thinking up a prank. She sat up in bed. There he was, her brother An, a healthy 8 year old boy. He laughed again and started jumping on Kims bed.

Sister Kim! See how well I am now. See how happy I am now. I will always be with you, good luck sister! MOM! Kim screamed. Kim was not usually the sort of girl who screamed, but she was so excited to see An, so happy to see her brother healthy and whole, that she couldnt wait to show her mother. Lilly came rushing into Kims room, Kim! What is wrong? Its An, hes here! Lilly became very still. She regarded her daughter from a distance. Kim, you brother has passed on. He is not here. I can see him, mother, he was just here. Lilly kissed her daughter, and hugged her until Kim thought she would break in half. Oh my daughter, Lilly whispered. You miss your brother so much. Then, Kim understood completely. An was dead. An was a spirit. She, Kim, could see spirits. The invisible people she sometimes saw following other people around, or hiding in houses, or wandering by themselves on the street these were all spirits and no one could see them but her. Mom, I can see people who have died. No, my sweet daughter. It is your imagination. You miss An so much, you pretend that you see him. But this will pass in time. But it did not pass. An had died shortly before the end of the school year, and Kim did not return to school after her brothers death. In the fall, Kim would be entering 7th grade, and she would be attending a completely different school. Meanwhile, she had the summer all by herself. It was a long and lonely summer for Kim. She would go on long walks in the forest by herself, and sometimes she would sit under the big cedar tree by the little stream which ran through a secret place she knew in the woods. An would sometimes meet

her there and they would talk about how beautiful the forest could be, what the birds and squirrels were up to, how nice it was they could share the forest together now. When she went home, her mother would ask her where she had been all day. Kim was an honest girl, and just a bit stubborn, so she would answer I was in the woods with An. Kim refused to believe what her mother told her, that she wasnt really seeing her brother, or that he was only her imagination. This worried her mother. Lilly was afraid her daughter was so lonely without her brother that she was starting to lose her mind. After all, what child has no friends at all and insists she can see her dead brother? That was when Lilly made an appointment with a special kind of doctor not a doctor that gives children medicine and helps their bodies to fight disease, but the kind of doctor that listens to children talk about their worries, and helps their minds to feel calm. This is how Kim met Miss Elena.