Lost in Glass Slippers by Kelly Haas Shackelford

Cancer comes between a mother and her enjoyment of her daughter's birthday, in Kelly Haas Shackelford's emotional vignette.

Trembling, I flicked the lighter, hovering over the three candles on my daughter's princess cake. Her bright green eyes danced in glee as she slid her fingers close to the pink icing to sneak a swipe. Shoving her sticky prize into her mouth, her lips curled up in delight at the sweet taste. I tried to smile. It would be my last birthday with her.

Friends and family said to forget about the cancer, the treatment, the pain and to just live for today. Such easy words when one is not planning a funeral.

"Your turn, Mommy." Isabella ran her slender finger across the cake, scooping up a fat helping and pushing it into my mouth. Her blonde curls danced as she threw her head back and laughed. So full of life was that sound.

Bittersweet filled my mouth. How I hated myself. Why could I not just live for today? Why could I not just treasure what little time I had left?

"Sing it again," my daughter shouted, giggling at her own demand. The room broke out in Happy Birthday as if my world was not about to stop. Everyone acted as if funeral clothes did not need to be purchased, a casket chosen, and songs selected.

"Time to open gifts." My mother gave me a stiff smile, reminding me to toughen up and act like a good Southern mother. Even cancer requires manners, at least here in the South.

My lips smiled while my heart sank, watching my daughter shake her present. I would never get to see her go to college, get married, or have children. I felt the precious minutes slipping away.

How does someone prepare for death, when life is so full? How does one answer when death is knocking, waiting its turn to party? I wanted to jump up and scream that I was not ready for it, but I knew death would never bend.

"Look Mommy," Isabella shouted and then coughed. She held up a Cinderella dress, complete with crown and glass slippers. It had taken me weeks to find it, but it was all she wanted.

Such simple joy is that of a child. I smiled back, willing myself to be happy, to be strong, and to forget about the funeral. My body shook as if it were rebelling against such unnatural happiness.

"Mommy," Isabella said. "Can I wear it to meet the Angels?"

"Yes sweetie, the Angels need a princess." I choked back tears. I would not cry at my daughter's last birthday party.

"And the slippers, Mommy, I am going to dance in heaven," she said, clutching the play slippers to her chest. Pride spread across her face.

"Yes baby, the slippers too." I wrapped my arms around her, forcing myself to breathe. I slipped the play slippers on her feet and stood. Dancing to the tune of Happy Birthday, around and around we went as she giggled and coughed.

I sighed and decided; tomorrow I will finish planning her funeral. Today, I am going to get lost, dancing in glass slippers.


  1. this is extremely good, heart breakingly sad. so well written. you´ve managed to put so much into this story, the child, the mother & prevailing attitudes.
    well done

    michael mccarthy

  2. Oh wow! Kelly that was wonderful. It totally took me by surprise and left me wanting to know more of this family's journey. By the end, I wanted to wrap my arms around the mother. I would highly recommend to a friend, and recommend they have a tissue handy.

  3. What a twist. I didn't see that coming at all. Sooo sad, but soooo nicely done and very touching.

  4. Great job with this. Very moving.

  5. A very powerful piece. Excellent work.

  6. She's planning a funeral in the second paragraph. Not sure about any surprise here. The death of a child does not need a trick ending to make the story poignant than it is.

  7. I think the story managed to draw me in, to read on.

  8. So touching. Beautifully written.

  9. This is the second of your stories that I have read on this site, and I am very engaged by your style. A fragile and delicate tale that avoids the obvious danger of being saccharine. Achingly haunting, and skillfully crafted in its ending - quite a shock to realise whose life is ending. Thank you,
    Ceinwen Haydon

  10. Kelly’s “Lost in Glass Slippers” in a heartbreaking miniature with an even crueler twist at the end. I don’t generally shed tears over fiction, but I made an exception with Ms. Shackelford’s story.