He sat in the same chair he had been seating in for the last 6 months, staring at the same crack on the wall, all the while struggling to draw in the dense air, heavily laced with the smell of medicine and death. She stirred out of sleep, moaning softly. Her pain medication must have worn off. They kept her pumped with drugs when the pain had gotten too much to bear. It was just a matter of time, the doctor had said. He stood, intending to call the resident nurse. That was all he could do. Helplessness had long set in.
“Hey,” she said, her voice raspy. He turned to find her watching him while a ghost of a smile played on her lips. She was pale against the white sheets, a shadow of the woman she once was. Her hair, once a stubborn mass of black curls, which she found great pride in, now lay grey and limp against the pillow.
He tried to smile but it came across as more of a grimace than anything else. He couldn’t fool her. What kind of a mother would she be if she could not see the pain he was in? She was dying. Nothing could mask that fact. She remembered the despair that had engulfed her soul on that first doctor’s visit. The difference between that woman who had left that hospital dead inside and the woman she was today was unimaginable, disregarding the fact that she had lost quite a bit of weight, which, in itself wasn’t such a bad thing. She could, after all, fit into her wedding dress again.
She patted the spot on the bed beside her. He sat down gently, as though afraid that his own proximity would harm her small frame.
Sunlight streamed in through the open window and as she lay there, her eyes twinkling, as if she had a secret she was bursting to share, she was beautiful. Angelic. She reached up and placed her hand on his cheek, lifting his gaze to meet hers. “Why so glum, chum?” She said, her voice soft. He was no longer 6 years old but he smiled despite himself. She chuckled slowly and that made him smile even more.
Her smile faded slowly and she regarded him gravely. She took his face between her hands and looked him straight in the eye. “God is here.”
Though she didn’t say it, he knew she meant that “Even though I am not here, God is here.”
She smiled and yet tears filled her eyes. She had been the strong one through it all and to see her cry now… the tears he had held onto on many an occasion flowed. He drew her into his arms and wept. He let himself feel the pain. He held her as if that, in itself would save her from death.
She held her baby, as only a mother could. She wept. Not for herself but for her son. She wept for his soul. She cried out to God to hold her baby because she couldn’t. She never could.
He was a child once again; hurt and needing his mother. “It’s ok,” she said, “God is here.”
God is here.
Her body grew limp in his hold and in her last breath, she smiled.