The joy from being here in the house sitting next to my bookcase in Grandma’s rocking chair counterbalances that sadness and void I feel below my heart, recessed and cavelike behind my stomach. Nausea echoes and yawns its way out.
Last night, Grandma Nichols died. I sat at the foot of her hospital bed. Aunt Sue sat at the right and Mom the left. Each held a hand.
On the shelf behind her were various machines: four or five IVs, standing like squashed sentinels; a monitor that clicked and beeped and whirred every half hour as it spit out a paper tape record of Grandma’s vital signs; below and to the right a pump gurgled and bubbled. A clear plastic tube appeared from her side and ran along to a bag possessing various nozzles. This was her new intestine. Directly after the heart attack there was great concern over nothing passing through it. The doctor had previously speculated that her kidneys had shut down, but to his surprise, they revived and were working.
When I walked into her room, the back half of the bed was tilted up and her head leaned to the left toward Mom. Her face was yellowed and ashen. The skin clung to the bones of her skull and where it didn’t looked puffed out. Her arms were blackened from all the prodding needles. Her lips were white. Her mouth opened every couple of seconds to gasp for breath and it looked as if she were reacting to a knife being repeatedly twisted inside her.
To us, she appeared unconscious. Though we all felt she could hear us and knew we were there. As her pulse slackened, Sue reported she could feel her hand getting colder.
Sue started humming Amazing Grace. Then Mom joined in. I only made it through the first verse and had to stop. Tears streamed down my cheeks. Never had that song sounded so beautiful as now.
Two sisters, who had rarely spoken to one another since their Father died six years before, singing their Mother on her way.
I sat at the end of the bed waving good-bye like a child.