Two weeks ago today I was sitting in a darkened room in a hospital ER, my hand gently holding my mother’s wrist, my index finger feeling for her fading pulse. As the fragile beats grew more distant, then seemed to stop, I glanced at my sister who was sitting next to my mother’s head stroking her hair. My sister is a nurse and I looked to her like a child looks up at their mother after they fall down to see how to react. Was this it, was she gone? My sister didn’t say anything though, so we kept talking.
I don’t remember now what we spoke about that afternoon, it doesn’t really matter. I think me and my sister and my father just wanted to erase the sounds of the hospital and fill it with our own hushed voices, a lullaby to a dying mother, wife, and grandmother. Sometime later a nurse floated silently into the room and quietly asked us if we needed anything. My sister shook her head no, then she said that mom had passed away about ten minutes before. So that was it then – no trumpets blaring, no final gasp, no last words, no dramatic goodbyes. Unlike the spectacle of birth and that fierce first breath, there was just sleep for my mother, deep and peaceful, a measured crossing on a whispered river of words.