When my mother was in a coma caused by septic shock, my sister prayed over her body, asking all the angels in heaven to come down and save my mother. In the middle of a long, extremely loud prayer, my mother sat straight up out of her bed and said, "No." It was the only movement she had made in three days and would be her last word. I knew what was in store -- the night nurse informed me that she had maybe two more days, adding that she had chosen me for the information because my dad and sister seemed mighty unstable and they needed to pull their heads out of their asses as to hopes for her recovery. I'm guessing it's not very much fun to work nights in ICU. Her language didn't bother me, but the thought of being the most stable one around did. I thought about my arrival after the long flight from Detroit -- she'd already slipped into the predicted coma before I arrived and her eyes darted when she saw me enter the room. She could not speak, but I knew she understood that I was there and that meant that she was dying.
So there my sister and I were, shocked as hell that my mother had basically told her to shut up. It was very like my mother, and we laugh about it now. I think about the energy and courage it must have taken for her to tell her most beloved child that she would not be staying on this earth and admire the moxy. After that, the prayers became more subdued, the days wore on, and eventually the room went quiet and we were left to pick up the few things she'd brought to the hospital with her. When someone dies, time slows way down and become dream-like for a long time. About a year later, I was in Hot Springs, Arkansas with my dad and sister, taking the heated mineral baths for which the town is famous. After the bath, the women wrap you up in sheets and set you on a table to recover from the high temperatures. The woman lying next to me began to speak to me of her mother's death apropos of nothing. I made flyers with her face on them and passed them out to people on the corners, begging them to pray that she would live. I couldn't say anything without crying so I nodded. She didn't, the woman said. When we got dressed to leave, she asked me if I would pass her purse over. It was a large black bag, and I expected it to be heavy, but it contained almost nothing, and I watched as she threw the deflated thing over her slumped shoulder as if it weighed a thousand pounds.
Michelle's Spell of the Day
"You are never so alive when you love, never so alert, intuitive, never so smart or so compassionate. But death is the price you pay for this privilege." John Dufresne
Drinking short story collection suggestion: The Dog of the Marriage Amy Hempel
Benedictions and Maledictions
40 Days until The Sopranos airs!