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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 limp hand again, leaning my head against it as I dozed, her breathing stopped.

            After alerting the nurse, I called 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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