Flashbacks of the week prior to being in the hospital, she was her old cantankerous self. That was her for you, she never took anything too seriously, and would often joke about the most inappropriate things. I remember thinking, I hope I’m like her when I’m older.
Now, I stand waiting for the verdict. The medical staff do what they need to do in order to help her. But it seems that it’s all in vain. How can this be? Why is this happening? She was fine! She was fine! More thoughts rush through my head as I watch in horror and fascination. It took all my strength not to yell at them to keep going, even though I knew there was no hope. Still, there is a part inside me that wants her to be okay.
“When that bullet has your name on it,” she used to say, “then that’s it. It’s your time.”
I start thinking about the cancer that was her bullet. It was supposed to be curable. The doctors had told her that she would live to be one-hundred. One thing I’ve learned is that doctors don’t know what they’re talking about half the time, and the other half they think they’re some sort of god. They believe the stuff they say, even when the patient is telling them otherwise. She knew she was dying, but they kept telling her she was fine. It just goes to show that even the professionals don’t know anything.
Finally, I jolt back to reality when the nurse says that there’s no hope and that they’re going to stop the compressions. Everyone agrees, but I remain silent. She was my world, and she’s no longer breathing.
Everything seems numb now. Nothing is making any sense. It feels like my own soul has left my body. This isn’t fair. This isn’t right. This can’t be happening.
The nurse says that they need a minute before any of us can see her. I want to see her right away, just to make sure that they were right. But I keep my mouth shut. Something I have been doing this whole time. I feel as though if I speak it will be real, and I don’t want that to be the case. I want her to live. I need her to be okay. It’s as simple as that.
Things are going faster. The priest is on his way and the nurse tells me that we can see her. Only no one, except me, wants to. Her grown children tell me that, they can’t do it alone, they don’t want to remember her like that, and that they want to wait for the priest to get there. I, on the other hand, need to see her. Now!
“‘The time has come,’ the Walrus said, ‘to talk of many things. Of shoes—and ships—and sealing-wax—Of cabbages—and kings...” Funny that the only thing popping into my head was Lewis Carroll. It was as if my brain wanted to process what was going on in a funny way, rather than a sad one.
Feeling my feet move slowly across the floor, I’m aware of the protests only for a second. I don’t care what they think, and I most certainly don’t need their approval. I’m a grown woman and am allowed to do whatever I please (within reason). Only once I get to the curtain pretending to be a door, I freeze. All thought has left me, and I’m just staring at the foot of the bed. Then, as if by magic, something whispers in my ear, “Courage." So I close my eyes, take a deep breath, and walk into the room without any more hesitation.
What I see isn’t scary, nor is it unpleasant. There she lays with her mouth slightly open and her eyes closed. Nothing has changed, except the stillness in her body, but she’s not scary. She’s not the zombie I had envisioned in my mind. If I didn’t know any better, I would say that she was just in a deep sleep.
As I walk up to her in the bed, I feel her hand, and besides being a little colder than normal, it’s the same. She’s no different than she was in life, and it shocks me. Without thinking, I lean down and kiss her forehead, feeling a single tear rolling down my cheek and onto hers. I wipe it off and whisper, “I love you, Grandmom. Rest well.”
I have done something I didn’t think possible. I faced the death of my best friend, and I was still standing. How can that be? But it was.
Later, I would think back on it in a strangely traumatic way, but I would never regret taking charge in that moment. Actually, I was proud that I wasn’t scared and that I could make sure we had all of her belongings. I think she would’ve been happy that I did what needed to be done.
You know, people always talk about the big things that take courageous doings, but I learned that day that courage can just be walking into a room to say goodbye to the woman you loved the most.