Thursday, February 12, 2009

will and the living

February in the dementia unit and they drop like flies in August. Only not so fast. They live and live and live and live, hanging onto each breath like spoonfuls of honey. We say things like, "Here's your purse, you can go now." And, "Mike isn't coming from Alaska, you can go now." and we sing and strum harps and some who didn't know her very well will pray at her bedside and I can see her shushing them, sending them to holier beds. We mutter just beyond her hearing, whispering things like, "I hate to see her linger like this." But this lingering, this thinly tethered life, is all there is for her. It is the only thing. Lyla was born on Friday the 13th. One of her boys was born on her birthday, on Friday the 13th. Her sons expect she will die tomorrow. I think they've known this all along but didn't have the heart to tell me because they think I think I know what I'm doing. Lyla knows when to die. She'll go when she's good and ready.

On the other hand, Etta's children won't leave. She is two weeks dead and they are hanging around, retelling the story of her passing to anyone who will listen for the third fourth fifth time. It is as though Etta's ghost, and the ghost of her husband so recently passed, are still here. I saw them coming toward me this morning -- not the ghosts, the children-- arms flung in grief, tears still rolling, ready for a great big hug and the retelling of the retelling of how precious it all was... and it isn't that it wasn't precious, its just that for me, it wasn't. Little is.

"Its hard to leave, isn't it?" I asked. They stared at me as though I'd given voice to a secret. "When you go," I continued, "it will become real and you can get on with things." I wanted to say, "They're not here." That's what they needed. But I had said enough.

I'm tired. Survivor starts tonight. Time to lighten up a tiny little bit.

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