Submission to Mother Loss Poetry

A bright, orange beta fish glides and swirls inside a fish bowl in long graceful movements, its fins like long, sheer, satin ribbons on a stick caressing the air and mesmerizing anyone who dares to stare long enough.  As the beta rounds the curve of the bowl, death skirts in and then out of room 319 in Calvary Hospice at 5:23 a.m., July 23rd leaving a body in its quake. 

Around 4:25 a.m., I unintentionally fall asleep for an hour on a cot next to my mother’s bed.  I drift off to the hushed tone of my brother’s voice.  He begins ushering our mother forward, telling her that it is time to let go, time to move on, as he holds her hand from a winged back chair next to her bed. This is not what he had planned to do, nor even knew how to do.

He tries to get my attention by tossing a shoe in my direction when it becomes clear to him that she is letting go, but I do not respond.

“Amy, it’s time.  Amy.  Amy.”  I hear him say.

I jump out of the cot and stand next to him.  Together, for a moment, we hold our mother’s hand and watch our mother slip away.

“She’s gone, she’s really gone,” one of us said.

“Something else, some other force helped me through that,” my brother said.

The constant span of the horizon dressed in a dark, vast, tinted blue hue is before me, all around.  It hugs the players of this scene and drapes the background of the ruins.  The marble rubble underfoot is disguised as a hospital gown, a mechanical hospice bed and a multitude of plastic, sterile devices used for drinking and rinsing.  And, lest I forget, there is a dead body, my mother’s dead body, inches away from me.   I can almost see her spirit soar, turn back for an instant, quickly, lovingly, and then bolt away to a place that I can not go or get the directions to. 

Looking down, I touch her hair and fixate on her teeth.  They are like gates clamped shut – no entry allowed, a “shop closed” sign.  With each passing moment she looks younger and more vacant and expressionless, her body transforms into an empty suit.

Emily Post never wrote about how to get through moments like this.  Though, if I consulted any “expert” on ceremony and circumstance, in this case, I’d have leaned more toward Hunter S. Thompson. 

Grace floods my spirit – I feel transported to what feels like a stadium, the giant Parthenon, after the Games during Roman Empire perhaps, long after the crowds disperse after a bone-crushing victory, the riotous sounds fading and dissolving into a thick, hollowed hum that glides on top of the wind.   The Games represent my mother’s life, not the cancer that managed to swallow her whole within 24 days. 

My head tells me that I should be shouting “No! No!” resisting the finality of her death, yet my heart feels differently.  I feel relief.  She is out of pain, out of the limiting body that she was dealt. 

Somewhere she is soaring, I think to myself, free of confinement and the crude existential crisis of being thrust human 54 years prior to this moment; her life was never easy. 

I am aware of my feelings of deep, abiding love for her.  To hear her last breath, to bear witness to this moment with my younger brother who shepherded her out of this life so gently is a rare gift and it gives me pause.  I am on sacred ground.

We call our siblings and stay with our Mom for 25 minutes as dawn breaks. 

We walk to the nurse’s station and inform our mother’s nurse.  A 6 foot, 2 inch-tall medical doctor accompanies us back the room with one kelly green wall and the fish bowl containing the bright, orange beta fish. 

The doctor takes out his stethoscope, listens for a moment, pulls the instrument out of his ears and lays it on the table.  He walks over to me, looks me in the eyes and says with gusto, “Your mother is dead.”  This pronouncement is his bit part in every play.  He performs it well.  I nod in acceptance, with grace even though he tells me something I already know.


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