This piece has come out of a grief writing workshop that I’ve been taking. I’ve been working on this piece over the last month, slowly and carefully adding bits and pieces, and just finished it this morning. The workshop has been helpful, and healing, and cathartic, and the hardest fucking thing to do. It’s helped me to dig in deep. Treading carefully so that the fragile ice does not crack and break and swallow me whole. To look inside the darkness and feel around until I could find some light, let my eyes adjust, take a tentative look around, and then find the key to that locked and gated door. To not feel so afraid to, well, feel. To open that door. I’ve inched the door open slightly, and peeked inside. There’s so much to see and feel and look at. It’s overwhelming. But it’s a beginning. And we all have to start somewhere.
Her soft cool hand limp in mine. Her sallow cheeks slack. Her eyes, although closed, seemed to sink further and further in. Further away. Another labored, shallow breath.
A peaceful look on her face that comes from a heady cocktail of morphine and ativan and anything else they can give her to soften the sharp edges of pain. The flicker of the lights in the house, although we haven’t moved from our bedside vigil.
Stillness. Heart-breaking silence. Willing my breath into her ravaged lungs, my life into her failing body.
Another flicker of lights. Energy surrounds me as no more breaths emerge from her still and lifeless frame. Silence. Waiting, waiting, waiting, counting the seconds, as they continue to tick by but that next breath does not come. Silence. Peace. Heartbreak.
It’s such a surreal feeling, as I stand in the center of her living room. As I stand over her. Yet she is not here. Just an empty shell that looks like the mother I know and love, but at the same time looks like a stranger, no resemblance. I say the words I want her to hear, to feel, to know. Silently, over and over again, I scream them in my head. I shut my eyes and hold her face in my hands and pray that she hears my words, feels them as she leaves us.
As I bend to give her a final kiss, my heart cracks open and a single tear falls onto her cheek. My final gift of mingled life and love and shared DNA. The saltiness of her tears welcomed me in and brought me to life so many years ago. And now my tears bid her farewell as her life comes to an end. Her energy and strength and love embrace me. I feel it. It’s the only thing keeping my knees from buckling and my own lifeless body from collapsing onto the living room floor.
I stay with her. I hold her hand, our fingers entwined. I brush my fingers through her hair. I stroke her cheek. I speak soft loving words, thanking her for everything she’s ever done for me. Accepting her for who she is. Apologizing for everything I’ve ever done to hurt or disappoint her. Forgiving her for the same. Pouring my love into her empty lifeless body, trying to fill her up with all I have to give.
And then the hardest part. Pulling my hands away. Casting my eyes away from her body. Looking around the house that is so full of her….yet so empty now. I see her everywhere, and no where. I hear her voice, yet there’s only silence. I feel her warmth, yet she’s so cold. I hear her laugh, yet she will no more. I feel her love, and that! That I take I grab I hoard and steal away. I fill my pockets and my handbag. I stow away as much of her love as I can hold. And when I can’t hold anymore, I wrap myself in it. Layering and layering like a protective shield of warm winter coats. This is what I take, as I walk away alone. Closing the door gently behind me as I go out into the cold harsh world without her. Yet I know I bring her with me.