Dec 2, 2013

Naturally, there was a question of whether to go at all, since we'd not seen her in several years. And the truth is, she was never a close friend, although my wife may have felt a distance I did not.  And so yes, we said, we'll go, we'll do it, why not. After all, it's the right thing.  And so we did, rolling up to Santa Rosa, listening to the game, the sound of the fog horn after each touchdown, and simultaneously trying to see through the nature of her struggle, and imagining what we would say to her, and how long we would stay....

At the hospital, we walked down one long corridor after another until finally we reached her room.  It was crowded, everyone moving around like communicants, coming to the rail, backing away, she, perfectly still, now completely disconnected,  save for oxygen.  She looked different of course, death was tucking her into its embrace and removing the last bit of furniture in what had been a castle of a woman.

Bones and kidneys were now baked from the chemo.  No white blood cells left.  For weeks the doctors had held out hope.  Well, we'll see, they said. We'll take it day by day and see if we can't round the corner.  But the corner was already rounded.  And still now, as we sat there, the oncologist was telling her husband that maybe tomorrow, if the white blood cell count went up, they could get back to the chemo.

Everything to keep the woman alive, at all costs, with no thought to her real condition, or to the preparations she needed to make for such a crossing.

Her husband was seething.  He'd believed the doctors for too long.  The nurses knew, of course. Now, he was ready to smite them all.  He's fired, he said to me after the oncologist left the room.  He doesn't know it, but that bastard is gone. 

The woman herself lay still, surrounded by her paintings and children, her lips chapped hideously, accepting slivers of ice, with the tranquilizing music in the background, and above her bead, photo panels in the ceiling showing the sky and leaves in autumn, the self-administering morphine in her hand. And for moments she was there and good, still with humor and clarity, to underline both the tragedy and the naturalness of it all.   And the meanness of it, we agreed later.

For a moment she recognized me and I held her hand.  She was telling me something but I couldn't hear, the sound of words was so subtle. I leaned in and still couldn't quite make it out.  "In another life," she kept saying and squeezing my hand, just barely.

1 comment:

Anjuli said...

death was tucking her into its embrace and removing the last bit of furniture in what had been a castle of a woman.....amazing have perfectly described what I have seen countless times.