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“The bitterest tears shed over graves are for words left unsaid and deeds left undone.”

- Harriet Beecher Stowe

Author of Uncle Tom's Cabin

 A Challenging Topic

My critique group's prompt this month was about death. A couple of people opted out: too close to home or not something they wanted to look at. I considered skipping it too. I've already written about the deaths of two relatives and two friends. But isn't that the challenge of prompts? And difficult subjects can make good writing. The end result is below.


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Photo/Szabolcs Toth  

The Final Stage


            Her body lay in the hospital bed, but she felt empty as I held her hand, as if she were already gone. No one told me death was near. And now, I was too late to say goodbye.

            Others crowded into the tiny room: sisters, daughters, husband, grandchildren, those she’d held close, but there were no signs of engagement, as if she didn’t know we’d all gathered to watch her leave.

            When her favorite minister arrived, she moaned loudly and stretched out an arm in his direction, showing a level of recognition that surprised us.

            When the room emptied, I stayed, still holding her hand, speaking those words I’d never been able to share, leaning over and whispering into her ear:

            “We were okay after all,” I said.

            But I felt no response, just like when she was alive. No arm reached out to me. My words echoed quietly among the blank, sterile walls.

            Three days later, holding that nearly lifeless hand again, leaning my head against it as I dozed, her breathing stopped.

            After calling the nurse, I phoned my daughter from the empty hallway.

            “Your grandmother’s gone,” I said.

            She started to cry. I did too, although that was the only time, and my tears were for my daughter, not for my mother, or for me.


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