By: Mia L. Hazlett
The pain slowly seeps to every pore of my being. I cannot rationalize the words the doctor just spoke. He repeats the word, “sorry” with a gentle touch to my mother’s shoulder. Instinctively she pulls away, only to grab his arm for balance. He guides her to the chair that she had popped out of when she saw him appear from behind the “Employees Only” door. I’m not sure when my tears began, but I taste the familiar salty warmth as I slowly rock back and forth in my husband’s arms.
The funny thing about death, it’s final. Everything you wanted to say to that person dies with them. There is no, “I’ll tell them tomorrow” or “It can wait”, it’s just over. I try to tell myself that he already knew everything I was going to tell him, but I fail at suppressing my guilt. Guilt brought on by my own procrastination and lack of prioritization. Being a hypocrite, for the mere reason I have actually had the nerve to tell people they are not promised tomorrow. And I stand here with the guilt of putting a visit to the hospital off until tomorrow.
I finally collect myself enough to go and comfort my mother. She is rocking back and forth with a low moaning sound escaping her mouth. I can’t even fathom how her world just changed with those two words, “We’re sorry.” Those are words that are suppose to offer comfort, give you a sense of peace. They aren’t supposed to take your husband of fifty-five years away. My light rubbing of her back doesn’t take her out of rhythm, it only ceases her moaning and tears begin to roll down her face.
There are so many thoughts going through my head right now as I scan familiar faces in the waiting room. People trying to offer each other comfort after the morose news. I’m not saddened by my father’s departure. My father is…was…seventy eight years-old, so age compounded with his eight month battle with lung cancer doesn’t take you by surprise. It just hurts to know the only man you have known your entire life is gone. He was the first man in my life to love me unconditionally. The first man to fight for me. The only man that I can say I trust…trusted. And now he is gone.
My mother stands and slides her arm through mine with an unexpected strength. She wipes a strangling tear, smiles at me and tells me to take her home. My husband stays and does all the paperwork and my mother and I enjoy a silent ride home together. I don’t know what memories she is thinking about, but she occasionally lets out a small chuckle. We get home and I walk her into their…her… house. How can she be so strong, I wonder to myself. I straighten up the house and fall asleep on the couch. When I’m sure she is asleep I return to my home and join my husband in bed.
Being an only child, I try to figure out how I am going to take care of my mother. It’s not as though we didn’t help out with my parents occasionally, but they did have each other. But now that she is by herself, maybe she needs to move in with us. I ponder how I am going to ask her the question as I enter her side door. I call out to her and get no response. I tiptoe down the hall because if she is asleep, I don’t want to wake her. I peak through the door and see her tiny form confined to her side of the bed. I try to imagine what her first night alone must have felt like. As I continue to watch her, I notice something is missing: the rise and fall of the bedspread.
This can’t be happening! I rush to my mother’s side and try to stir her to consciousness, but her eyes are already open. She has a slight smirk to her mouth and a peace in her forever stare. I want to cry. But I am overwhelmed by the answer to my question. She couldn’t make it through her first night without my father.