Deborah helped found both the Post-Polio-Med email list and the Post-Polio Syndrome Central Web Pages.

Under her guidance, firm hand and very tender heart, and due in large part to her hard work, PPMed quickly grew to be the largest PPS related email list on the internet, with well over 1,200 members at the time of her death, and PPS-Central one of the most respected and complete PPS Info web sites on the world wide web.

Following are tributes from a few of her many friends on the web. Below the tributes is a link to Windows to Wisdom, Deborah's personal web site, which includes some of her writings.

Rest in peace friend, you are missed.


I was just looking at a throw offered by the National Wildlife Foundation that has a desert wildflower theme, and for some reason, it made me think of Debbie. On a whim, I typed her name into Google, and there she was...with all these wonderful words written about her... in the past tense.

I had the good fortune to work as a work study aide at Pima College at a desk right across from Debbie in the mid eighties. Debbie was a one of a kind...the type you don't forget.

I remember her for being the first to bring to my attention the challenges faced by people who had no choice but to use wheelchairs to make their way around in a world where most people walk. I remember her talking about "hanging out" with Bruce Springsteen before he made it big.

I remember her finger dancing. I remember her dancing eyes. I remember her smile sandwiched somewhere in between. Debbie was always a bright light in my day. There are some people you meet whose image you are fortunate enough to have stay with you. Thanks for letting me know she is no longer with this world. We will see her soon.
Brad M. (sent 7 Aug 2003)

From Deborah's sister after she read the tributes below:

Hi Cleo - Thank you for sending this along to me. I want you to know that I started reading the tributes last week. It was so touching that I felt it was best to take a break and return to the page, to complete the reading, one week later.

My mother and I were fortunate to reach Deb one day before she passed on. She knew we were with her. Everything went down hill so fast, it was hard for us to comprehend. We stayed by her side, my mother holding one hand and I the other. Five dear friends also surrounded her bed. As hard as it was, we gave her a loving send off. Many of us had similar visions of her running, dancing, swimming like a dolphin. We know she is soaring and free.

Sending my blessings to all who have shared so lovingly,

Our long time listowner, listmember and friend, Deborah, died Monday night after a very short illness. From all outward appearances, she died peacefully.. with her Mom, Sister and beloved friend Kevin with her.

In her honor.. I'm suspending the infocentric rules of PPMed.. and would encourage anyone who needs to, to feel free to write their feelings today. Deborah herself, as hard as she worked to keep PPMed infocentric, would recognize the need for this and approve.

I'm still stunned.. and don't really know what to say, except that I'll miss her fiercely and I'm so glad it was my great pleasure to know Deborah, she touched my life in a very positive and profound way. Left very disabled by polio as a small child, she never defined herself by her disabilities.. and remained until her death, one of the strongest, kindest women I've ever known. My hope is, that now she is dancing the dances she dreamed of dancing as a child.

To her many friends.. my sympathies. I share your grief.

From the Tucson Citizen:

"GATELY-MCKEEN, Deborah, age 53, of Tucson, passed away October 14, 2002. Preceded in death by her father, Richard E. Gately; she is survived by her husband, Paul J. McKeen; mother, Evelyn Lewis-Gately; sister, Christine (David) Hallowell; brothers, Stephan (Jan), Craig (Lisa) and Richard (Amy) Gately, two nieces, three nephews, and one great-niece. Deborah graduated from the University of Arizona, receiving her Masters Degree of Education, specializing in counseling, and working as a therapist for 15 years, becoming a writer in her later years. Memorial services will be held at 3:00 pm on Sunday, October 20, 2002 at Adair Funeral Home, Dodge Chapel, 1050 N. Dodge Blvd. with the Reverend Rafia Marian Wilcox officiating. In Lieu of flowers, lovingly give to someone in need."


Our long time listowner, listmember and friend, Deborah (Splinter), died Monday night after a very short illness. From all outward appearances, she died peacefully.. with her Mom, Sister and beloved friend Kevin with her.

I'm still stunned.. and don't really know what to say, except that I'll miss her fiercely and I'm so glad it was my great pleasure to know Deborah, she touched my life in a very positive and profound way. Left very disabled by polio as a small child, she never defined herself by her disabilities.. and remained until her death, one of the strongest, kindest women I've ever known. My hope is, that now she is dancing the dances she dreamed of dancing as a child.

To her many friends.. my sympathies. I share your grief. I can't tell you how much she enjoyed the people of Solo-Net.. You have been her light and laughter :)


Thanks Cleo,
I'm really bad at dealing with death and grief so it will take me awhile to sort out an appropriate response. Even though I never met her in the real world, we go back a long way and she always burned with such intensity it lit up the lists we shared like a searchlight.

Take care and stay strong good friend,

Thank you, Cleo, for posting the sad news about Deborah, whom I always addressed as "Estrellita," a name I gave her, and she adopted, when she moved back to the desert town of Tucson. I, too, will miss her, fiercely ... her compassion, her striving for "enlightenment," her grace, her humility, her passion for life, her absolute, undying love for her friends, her wit, her tears, her humor, her pain, her way with words, her gratitude for her life just as it was, and finally: Her gift of love for me and mine. Yes, I will miss her. Every day.

My World is now empty
My Heart is broken
My Tears fill the Heavens.
I Loved Her.
I Love Her still.
Always ...
Estrellita, only you.

In my heart, and she would know these words:

Ahora esta' vaci'o el mundo
Quebrantado , mi corazo'n
El cielo lleno de mis la'grimas.
Yo la querira.
Todavia la quiero.
Para siempre.
Estrellita ... eres tu', eres tu'.

David G. (G=Grief) in SLC

> Our long time listowner, listmember and friend, Deborah (Splinter), died Monday night after a very short illness. From all outward appearances, she died peacefully.. with her Mom, Sister and beloved friend Kevin with her.<

I am totally stunned - speechless. I didn't know about Deborah (Splinter) except that she was a great Listowner ....

I just don't know what to say .....


>Our long time listowner, listmember and friend, Deborah (Splinter), died Monday night after a very short illness.<

Shock and sorrow can't begin to express what I feel. I felt a close connection to Deborah, sharing her name and being close in age. She will be sorely missed by all of us here and all who knew her in person, I'm sure.

Deb in PA

As I sit with tears in my eyes, I remember Deborah.

I never had the chance to meet her in person, but she became through her writings, a part of my life. I read her posts with joy, I knew that she would touch me either with laughter, a passion to change something, or just learn other point of view.

She shone with a golden light illumination the darkness that surrounds us.

To her family and friends, I share your grief in the loss of this great Lady.

In her mind she danced with passion and I will always see her like that in my memories.

Peace be with you
Margaret in Canada

So nice a tribute to someone we did not have the fortune to meet as you did. I will second your wish for her Cleo...let's pray she is up and about in Heaven dancing and in peace with everything around her.

She sounds like she was a jewel in society...I am sure she will be missed by all that did know her and love her.

Blessings to you and her family.

Judie from MA

>I wish I could find words to express my sorrow about the passing of Deborah, Spike.<

Just got an e-mail from my sister in Alaska who is also battling a serious disease. Neither me nor my sister "AK Nan" are poets ..... but somehow her e-mail this morning helps with the sorrow I feel this day: Geezer

From AK Nan:

Well it's still snowing and has been for 4 days now, we have about 10 inches so far the temperatures are not bad around 28, but boy is the roads slick.... just got the studs on yesterday it was bad driving into town, but coming back wasn't so bad, the new studded tires worked great. They sure have gone up this year, 150.00 for the tires, 16.00 for the studs, and 48dollars to balance... with my new van I only had to get 2 tires this year, on the front because the van has positive traction....

The trees are so beautiful and the red Birds are back and with the red against the snow is picture perfect... we had 2 visitors this morning, a cow moose and her calf, you know that is what makes living up here so neat... I have fox, moose and a couple of times a wolf in the yard, the neighbor has had brown bears but I have not seen any here yet. But the biggest joy is the birds, I have two feeders and I think every bird in the area likes sun flower seeds, I can set at the window for hours and watch them.. sometimes an evil though cross my mind hhhhmmm 25.00 a bag for seed and I have to buy about 5 bags in the winter I am going to stop feeding them, but then when the feeders are empty and the birds are gone I miss them so I fill the feeders up again LOL...I just have to cut back on ice cream ..............

Deborah and I took to one another immediately through writing on Internet lists. We exchanged photos and she sent me a picture of herself, as she was in childhood with polio. The picture presented a beautiful thin blond cutie, which had a great affect on me as I got to know her a bit more later. When I finally met her as an adult I could see that happy child still within.

About 3 years ago, on a trip to Maine, I stopped off at Portsmouth, New Hampshire to have lunch with Deborah. When I rolled into the restaurant her eyes moved to me and she seemed to look deep inside me. I remember a blush of dark red in her brown hair and an impish, or maybe a bit of a devilish smile. I liked her immediately. She told me she picked the restaurant because it served "Big Food". I think we ate and talked for 2 hours as if we grew up together.

A few months ago she asked me for my phone number and asked if she could call some time. Of course, I said. She told me she always thought of me as if I were busy all the time and said she wouldn't abuse it. Deborah couldn't abuse it if she called me twice a day and three times on Sunday since then. Most of the time I'm goofing off, I told her.

Since I heard the news I have thought of her every hour. Deborah loved the outdoors. She always wanted to dance. She believed deeply in finding a way to peace. She loved. I loved her. I am diminished by the loss of this unique intelligent beautiful loving woman.

For what is it to die, But to stand in the sun and melt into the wind? And when the Earth has claimed our limbs, Then we shall truly dance. --Kahlil Gibran


I am with you in your sorrow. But she is with us in spirit. Live each day to the fullest as we know not when our time has come. Jean

Deborah (Splinter) had a most unique ability to "connect" with those of us on Solo, and to make us feel wonderful about ourselves. She found pleasure in the smallest of gestures, humor in the most ordinary things, and shared her delight with us.

We will miss her terribly, but a part of her will always be with us.

--Oh my goodness, Cleo--the last thing I expected to see. She was always such a bright spot. Thank you for posting this for those of us who would not have known of her passing. Yes, she surely must be now dancing the dances of delight and youth. She was a Joy with her teasing. Having special ones taken from our presence is painful. Memories of them can only bring Joy.
Mary L/WI

This poem, which I came across last night, made me think of Deborah.

~* ~* ~* ~* ~* ~* ~* ~*
There is a brokenness
out of which comes the unbroken,
A shatteredness out of which blooms the unshatterable.
There is a sorrow
Beyond all grief which leads to joy
And a fragility
Out of which depth emerges strength.

There is a hollow space
Too vast for words
Through which we pass with each loss,
Out of whose darkness we are sanctified into being.

There is a cry deeper than all sound
Whose serrated edges cut the heart
As we break open
To the place inside which is unbreakable
And whole.

~ Rashani

I was sorry to read about Splinter. We never know what is around the corner. I did not know Splinter except through our list, but I am sure she lived her life to the fullest. We will miss her quick humor and comebacks. Please give her family my heartfelt sympathy. Working Diane in OH

What death brings out in us, the living, tells a lot about the dead. When it brings out beauty, beautiful was the one that died.

Thanks, in particular, to those of you, comrades, compagnons de route, that resorted to poetry, that says it all. And because "never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee", you'll forgive me if I thank in particular Eddie and Kahlil Gibran that spoke for Deborah and for all of us that never danced. But shall.


Its a sad surprise to hear of Deborah's death, leading to my considering all the ways she personally affected me, on here at two seperate times, as a newbie. The first time, I was ignorant of computers. The second, present time, ignorant of "infocentric." Deborah's patience, tact, teaching, marked the few but notable times it was necessary to redirect me. Being an overzealous-to-serve-others minister, my response is to immediately reach out with empathy, encouragement, and forthright words. (The opposite of infocentric.) Instead of making me feel ignorant, or a misfit, Deborah simply pointed to an alternative way based upon experience and needs of the Group. She helped me to belong. Her gentle leadership caused me to found an Alzheimer's Group for my Mom, online.

No one can make the difference in the world that Deborah did, without inspiring others to carry the torch. Her faithfulness to the Group produces results that saved my life, and kept me from an unnecessary surgery. It helped me persevere.

Please may I say that she is not only dancing, but she is eating whatever she enjoys, now; the Old Testament says we will have a feast when we go 'home' for good.

Your poetry touches my heart. I wish I had known Deborah. She must have been a beautiful woman.

It seems so likely to me, as she left her earthly body behind, she took off running.......and then soaring free.

Elizabeth....saddened by her absence.

>Lieu of flowers, lovingly give to someone in need.<

What a beautiful thought and easily accomplished. Rest in peace Deborah. Jo

I am so very sad to hear of Deborah's passing...Jann

"Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am in a thousand winds that blow,
I am the softly falling snow.
I am the gentle showers of rain,
I am the fields of ripening grain.
I am in the morning hush,
I am in the graceful rush
Of beautiful birds in circling flight,
I am the starshine of the night.
I am in the flowers that bloom,
I am in a quiet room,
I am the birds that sing,
I am in each lovely thing.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there. I do not die."
[poem by Mary Frye, Baltimore, Maryland]

"I did but see her passing by, and yet I love her till I die" (Anon)

vale, Deborah


>My hope is, that now she is dancing the dances she dreamed of dancing as a child.

I, too, will miss her, fiercely ... her compassion, her "enlightenment," her grace, her humility, her passion for life, her absolute, undstriving foraying love for her friends, her wit, her tears, her humor, her pain, her way with words, her gratitude for her life just as it was....

She shone with a golden light illumination the darkness that surrounds us.

let's pray she is up and about in Heaven dancing and in peace with everything around her

she always burned with such intensity it lit up the lists we shared like a searchlight.

I am diminished by the loss of this unique intelligent beautiful loving woman.

For what is it to die, But to stand in the sun and melt into the wind? And when the Earth has claimed our limbs, Then we shall truly dance. --Kahlil Gibran

Live each day to the fullest as we know not when our time has come.<

I am quoting all these beautiful sentiments:
For Deborah, such a unique and dancing light,
what else can one add. Eileen in San Diego

Cleo, My sympathies go out to you for the loss of your dearest friend. I didn't get to know Deborah well enough to feel her loss personally but the loss of a strong woman who also has PPS reverberates throughout the community.

I know you two were very close and wanted to send my love and caring to you. The quotes have been beautiful. I also read some of Deborah's stories and poems. What a woman!!

I wish to offer my sincere condolences to Deb's family. Roger

>>Lieu of flowers, lovingly give to someone in need.< What a beautiful thought and easily accomplished. Rest in peace Deborah. Jo<

And a thought which reflects Deborah's attitude to life.

I have no poems to submit, no words of wisdom or solace. Though, unlike the fortunate few who have written, I never met or even spoke to Deborah personally, I always felt as if I knew her... as if we were somehow connected. Since hearing of her death, I feel a void in my life... a part of me has been cut off.
May her soul know peace.

My numbness and burning and mine is related to pps. I have four = different spots that stay dunb all the time and two spots that come and = go. I use Elavil and neurontin but it only reliefs it some and does not = take it all away. Deborah I miss you. Jean

I've known Deborah since the olden days when there was only one Polio list on the web. We fought many battles together against discrimination, disinformation, and repression. We fought for personal freedom, freedom of speech, freedom of expression. We won alot of them. Deborah fought these battles as she lived her life, with grace, creativity and a fierce determination. She was a loyal friend, a powerful ally and one helluva writer. Her prose was strong, imaginative and beautiful. She had a pirates gleam in her eye. I raise my glass to my friend, comrade and fellow scallywag..."To a life well lived!"


II have a friend who has Cystic fibrosis. She is a brilliant, beautiful loving person and wheelchair bound all her life. She told me that when she dies she wants the seat as far from God as possible so she can spend Eternity running to Him.

I wish the same for Deborah. The complete freedom of running without pain or the limits of this imperfect physical body, laughing and smiling for all

I always think of heaven as having lots, lots of green grass that stretches for miles and miles; adorned slpendor of beautiful, corlorful flowers. I wonder if this is because of polio putting a limitation on my walking and running. I know the streets are of gold as the Bilbe stated in the Bible. But, I guess, I think being free and running, and running which I missed out on in this life. Not complaining.....I just know there is something better for us who trust in the Lord. Thanks for writing abt. Deborah. Ann

Greetings All,
I am missing Deborah more and more, not less and less as time passes, as I had at first thought. I am still surprised when I am not greeted each morning with a new email, posted sometime in the wee wee hours so that I would get it first thing. I miss knowing about Tucson weather, and "seeing" the sunset on the mountain range close to her apartment. I want to hear more about the coyote that trails her when she goes out for a walk. And how is her writing class coming along? Y'all know how serious she was about her writing. And she was damn good at it. We'll now never know that book of poetry, nor the book of fiction she was ardently working on (she would also hit me for ending a sentence in a preposition!). I want a new picture of her, with that wild head of flaming red hair. I don't know anyone else who can fill me in on what it's like to always be in a chair, and do it with humor and a total lack of self-consciousness. She just always was, and that's that. I'm not, nor have I ever been, but I've always been curious, and concerned (a selfish thought, I admit). I want her gentle manner to persuade me to look askance at the "evil-doers" and to get on with getting on, to be the best person I know how to be. I'm left out to dry in the wind, and it's a Utah wind, not a nice, hot, dry Arizona wind. I depended on her research and knowledge on PPM, too. Oh, Cleo the Scout is as good as they come, but Deb bespoke a "been there/done that" kinda knowledge, and effused compassion for us wayfarers on the sea of PPS.

I want her back. And I'm damned selfish about it, and I really don't give a flying rat's ass that I am. "It is what It is." My favorite phrase to her, then she'd (dare) turn it around and send it right on back to me. How dare her!!! The unmitigated gall of that Woman! ;-) Well, guess I'll crawl back in my hole. I'm still waiting for an email, though, from "Salima Estrellita del desierto" ....... and I'll continue to wait till The Goddess she so loved sees fit to send me a clue.

Love to you All out there in La-La land, waiting on your own Ya-Ya ...
David G. in SLC

Deborah was so expressive, positive, and self-confident. I could tell through her words that she really appreciated meeting and mixing with interesting people ~ especially over the very best of food. At least the way she said it made it sound like the very best of food! When she put pen-to-paper her emotional experiences became part of me. Part of me that is the better for knowing her. I will miss the pure joy and guidance of her words.

I am sending my very favorite Deborah Gately-McKeen story, written in 1995, in a follow. In awe of the caring, intellect and hope available to me here on Polio-Life,

P-Life Resident Proletariat

-----Original Message-----
From: DGM
Date: Tuesday, April 15, 1997 11:56 AM
Subject: Just One More Thing

I've been hunting around for another article I wrote and happened across this which I can't, for the life of me, remember if I shared with all of you. While rereading it this morning I found myself tumbling back to my childhood but acutely aware of how many of these old dragaons are breathing smoke just outside my door. If I've put all of you through this before, I apologize. This aging thing has some very real drawbacks 8-) But, if you've not been plagued with it before, perhaps you would give it a read? Thanks.


PS If anyone remembers reading it before, please let me know. I've got to start making notes on these things.

Just One More Thing

by Deborah Gately-McKeen

I am awake. I can hear their rubber-soled shoes padding up and down the hall outside my room. Some people sound big. Their feet make a heavy thud as their heels hit the corridor linoleum. The littler people make rustling noises as their dresses whip back and forth. They all carry breakfast trays, medicine, and bed pans.

I can't see anyone this morning. Last night the nurse turned my mirror away. She said that I shouldn't keep watching everything that's going on in the hall because I should be asleep.

"But I'm not sleepy." I said, as she stood out of view and twisted the mirror away.

"That's because you're nosy. Now close your eyes and think of nice things. You'll go to sleep soon."

"But I'm not sleepy." I protested again.

"Don't be difficult, Debby. Little girls are meant to be asleep by now."

She left me then. I wanted her to talk to me some more. The room was almost dark; only the night light was left on so the nurses could write things from the dials on my tank. I have my own tank. The doctor told me I could keep it as long as I stay in the hospital. I asked him if I could bring it with me when I go home. He laughed at me.

"What would you do with a great big iron lung in your house?"

"I could be with my Mommy and Daddy and Chrissie and Stephan." I responded definitively.

He laughed at me again and left my room. I felt kind of silly. It seemed like a good idea to me. I can't breathe without it.

I hope they come and bring my food soon. I'm hungry. I have to go to the bathroom too. I hate it when they reach through the sides of my tank and put me on the bed pan. It's cold and terribly hard. I don't think it was made for someone as little as me. It pinches my skin and digs into my back and legs. The nurses forget me when I'm on it because they're real busy. Sometimes they forget to cover me back up when I'm on the bed pan. I feel kind of silly then too because there are windows on the top of the side of my tank. Other people can walk right in my room and look in the windows. I don't like that. My mother never forgets to cover me up. She always says, "I'm going to cover up my little girl's skinny bones so she won't get cold." When the nurse forgets, I try to make believe that I don't know there are windows on my tank or that nobody can see my skinny bones.

It isn't that hard to do. I haven't seen my body in a long time. It's inside the tank, below the plastic collar around my neck. They wrap a diaper around my neck so that the collar won't hurt. At night it slips and burns sores on my skin. The collar leaks once in a while too, blowing air in my face, taking my breath away. Bells go off and everyone comes running. They fix my collar so I can breathe again. Then they go away.

I'm still scared, but they go away anyway.

I can move my right hand a little. If I work at it, I can crawl up my stomach and over my chest to the underside of the plastic collar. My stomach sinks in a lot now. It used to be round and stick out some before I got sick. My daddy used to poke his finger in my belly-button and I would giggle. Then he would tickle my ribs. As I creep up to my ribs, they feel hard; kind of like there's no skin there. It hurts when people touch me. I can't laugh when they press in all the places that used to tickle.

Sometimes I cry when they do that. They tell me I'm very brave but I don't think so. When I get my fingers to the top of my chest, I can pull my chin in real tight and see my fingers beneath the filmy plastic. My fingers look pinkish and real little. I remember they looked kind of pudgy before. When I think about my fingers, I can tell they are little. They can feel the pleated underside of the collar. They want to touch my face but I say "No!" to them. They can't get through. I pretend they belong to someone else. These are someone else's skinny pink fingers that don't do much. Mine are chubby and can squish a caterpillar just like that! That doesn't bother me or my fingers.

Waiting for my food, I can look at the big round end of my tank. It's painted an ugly yellow color. Pieces of the paint have chipped off. One spot looks like my cat, Sugar. I can see her with her paw up to her mouth, licking it. The other chipped space is real big and can look like a monster. He has giant teeth and a great big head. I try not to look at him too much. When I do, I try to see if he can be something nice but he always turns out scary. I make myself look away from him most of the time.

I am counting the little holes in the ceiling this morning too. "One, two, three, four," I can count pretty high even though I'm not in school yet. I would have gone to school in two weeks but I got sick. I don't feel sick anymore. I just can't move or breathe too well. I wish someone would bring my breakfast.

"Good Morning, Debby. Are you ready to eat?"

"G'morning. I'm hungry."

"Good." The nurse sits down next to my head and balances the tray in her lap. "Now, here let me give you a bite of egg. Turn your head this way. There you go."

"Yuck. I don't like runny eggs. Do I have to eat them? Can't I have Wheaties?"

"You have to eat what the kitchen sends you. I'm very busy. I can't get anything else. Now be a good girl. I don't want to have to tell the doctor you wouldn't eat."

She looks mad to me so I smile at her. I don't want her to go away and be mad at me but my stomach feels sort of queasy from the runny egg.

"I'm not very hungry anymore," I smile.

"How about a drink of juice?" she suggests.


"Yes, apple and a little glass of prune juice. Which do you want first?"

I know she will make me drink the prune juice.

"Prune juice first," I say, to get it over with.

"That's a good girl. Drink it all up. Good. Here's your apple juice now."

The nurse puts the same bending straw in to the apple juice so that the first few sips taste awful. I don't make a face though because she's smiling at me. I feel full.

"I have to go the bathroom."

"What do you say?" She's not smiling any more.


"O.K. I'll put you on and be back in a few minutes."

She gets up and puts the breakfast tray away somewhere. Then she disappears down the side of my tank. Suddenly, she pops open two portholes in the side of the iron lung. For a few moments I can't breathe. The great gushing in and out sound, that is steady and reassuring, changes. Then she pushes the bed pan and her arms through the portholes. The steady noise returns as the vacuum is resealed. She is moving my legs and rolling me on my side. My head can't turn very easy so the movement hurts. I say, "Ouch!"

"Now don't be a baby, Debby. It will be over in a minute."

I make believe my body belongs to someone else and that helps some. I'm quiet.

"I'll be back in a couple of minutes." She walks quickly out of the room. She didn't cover me and my mirror is still turned. I wish my mother were here. She'll be here later today. She promised. It seems like the nurse has been gone a long time. My back and legs ache. I can't talk loud enough to call anyone. Maybe if I think hard she'll remember me. Oh, I wish she'd remember me.

"Debby, Debby. So sorry. My my you must have been here for half an hour."

She's reaching in the portholes and rolling me on my side. It hurts more this time. The bed pan has dug deep in to my flesh and is stuck to me.

"Ow!" I'm starting to cry.

"Debby, you're such a cry baby. You've really got a ring-around-the- moon here." She laughs a little.

I don't know what she means by that but I'm biting my lip so she won't call me a cry baby again. I'll make believe this is another person inside the tank. Someone I don't know. This way I won't feel the hurt. I'll be kind of just a head lying on a pillow that is propped up on a tray. The head can smile when the body it doesn't know hurts.

"Would you fix my mirror, please?"

"Sure. Do you want to look at your funny face or out in the hall?"

She is smiling at me again. She tips the mirror that swivels over my head and I see the sunken eyes and hollow cheeks of a little girl I vaguely remember.

"No, no. Outside, please," I smile.

"O.K. There you go. Can you see now?" She bends down and looks in to the mirror that reflects her image.

"Yes. My mother is coming soon. She promised. She's bringing me bacon today. I love bacon. She's making it for me right now, I bet."

"I'm sure she is." The nurse leaves my room.

I am alone again; a head with a phantom body attached somehow. I think of my house and of my family. I wonder what they are doing. Chrissie is probably playing with my dolls and Stubby, my teddy bear. I asked Mommy to bring Stubby in and she said she would when I get better. When I get better I'll go home and play there with Stubby. He's a panda bear with blue button eyes. We'll play together and I'll go out and put him on the swing with me and he'll ride my scooter with me. When I go home, that is. I don't feel really sick so I'll be better soon.

The time goes by quick here sometimes. I don't do anything but think a lot. That seems to make time move fast. I make believe I have a doll house with tiny real people and I can make them do anything I want and anything I say. I can put them in any room and I can make them sit, stand, lie down or just what ever I want. They like me but they know I'm the boss. What I say goes.

My mother has finally arrived. She's brought me bacon like I asked. It smells so good. I think I can smell it even before she unwraps the Saran Wrap. She's cooked it just the way I like it, a little chewy. It's nice when she feeds me. I don't feel so much like only a head when she's here. She smiles and talks to me a lot; even when I cry. She doesn't care if I have to go to the bathroom and, as I've already said, she never forgets to cover me up. She tells me what's going on at home. I'm afraid to ask her when I'll be better enough to come home with her and Daddy.

The nurse just came in and told my mother that visiting hours were over for the afternoon. I don't want her to leave so I start to cry. She puts her warm soft hand on my forehead and tells me she promises she'll be here tomorrow. I want her to stay now.


"The nurse says I have to go. I promise I'll be in tomorrow. Daddy will be in tonight."

"I know, but can't you stay? Please?" I want her to tell the nurse that she is staying no matter what they say. I want her to tell them they can't make her go.

"I want to, Baby," she strokes my head again, "but they have their rules and I have to follow them."

"When can I come home with you?" I dare to ask.

"Soon, Honey, soon." She looks a little sad to me. "Now I have to go."

She gathers all her things and starts for the door.

"Mommy? Just one more thing?"

"What is it?" She turns and steps in to my view again.

"What time are you coming?"

"About one o'clock. Just like today."


"Goodbye, Sweetheart." She kisses my forehead and I start to cry again.

"Mommy? One more thing?"

"What Debby?" She stays where she is.

"Can I have bacon again?"

"Yes, Honey, I promise. Now I'm going to leave and I can't stay for any more questions." She walks out the door.

"Mommy? Mommy? Just one more thing? Please? I forgot to tell you one more thing." My heart is racing but I know she is at the elevator and won't come back.

"I love you," I call soundlessly.


"Deborah, Deborah, wake up!" Paul is rocking me gently back and forth in our bed.

"What! Huh? Oh. Oh, I was dreaming again, wasn't I?" I answer faltering, out of breath. My heart is thudding visibly and the pounding in my temples is confusing.

"You stopped breathing again. You were gasping! Jesus, that scares me when you do that."

He has his arm around my shoulders and is helping me to a sitting position. My right hand keeps rising to my face. Seemingly of its own volition, I gratefully brush fingers against my cheek. I can feel myself calming down as my breath comes more slowly and clarity of thought returns. "I don't really remember, Paul. I just felt like I was floating away from my body. God, I've got the shivers."

"Well, it's no wonder, you're covered in sweat too. Here, lie down so I can cover you up. You'll be warm in a minute."

Paul slowly lies me back down and helps me to turn damp atrophied limbs so that I can rest on my side. He pulls the covers up over my shoulders and folds himself warmly around the contours of my scoliotic back.


"Mmmm. That's much better. One thing, Paul?" I speak softly.

"What's that?"

"I'm sorry."

"Don't be ridiculous." He answers quietly in my ear. "You can't help it if you have a nightmare."

"Thank you, baby. One more thing?"

"Mmmm?" He is beginning to drift off to sleep.

"Don't ever leave me, O.K.?"

"O.K." He answers, barely audible.

"Paul? Paul? Just one more thing?"

There is no answer. Merely the slow even breathing of my husband of twelve years and the security of his warm body enveloping all of me.

"There's just one more thing I forgot to tell you."

"What's that?" he mumbles.

"I love you." I whisper.

"I love you too."

©1995 Deborah Gately-McKeen

Suzanne, I've been off list for about six weeks...traveling to New Mexico, then having a host of computer problems. Helen Bergen told me about Deborah and I am so very sorry.

What a terrible shock. I hope you and others who knew Deborah will find peace as time goes on.


Many listers, over a dozen, replied to my posts about our departed eFriend Deborah [AKA Salima Estrellita del Desierto] off-list. I am not surprised people here were touched by her cyber-presence. Over the years Deborah and I corresponded privately on occasion. I knew if we were ever in the same city at the same time I'd find the pathway to her door! Now I hope we do experience an after-life. I want to hug her, tell her I missed her, take her hand [if we have 'em!] and watch her dance. Marsha
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