If You’re Gone

This is the hospital room where my sister died. She died on a Wednesday. The photo was taken just days before. I knew that one day I would need this. And I was right. I need it today.

Although still in the same room where she had initially been admitted; this time she was now under hospice care. This meant that there would be no heroic efforts made to save her life. She was simply to be kept as comfortable as possible. No food. No water. Just quietly and humanely waiting for the inevitable.

“I think I’ve already lost you…I think you’re already gone

Tonight was my night to stay with her. I maintained vigil in her hospital room; sitting in a semi-comfortable bedside chair. This was to be the last night of her life. This was our last “sleepover”. My back was turned to the open door as moonlight streamed into her darkened room from the window directly in front of me. The shadows of nurses and doctors danced in and and out as they walked behind me in the lighted hallway. Sometimes they would stop to listen, as I softly sang to her, prayed for her, and cried for her. I also cried for me.

I never turned around to acknowledge their presence, and so within moments, they would continue walking. All the while, my sister’s eyes remained half open; their whites a deep golden shade of yellow, her pupils staring vacantly out into space.

By this time, she had long since stopped communicating verbally. The medical/hospice professionals had mentioned to us that “the hearing will be the last to go” And so, whenever she thrashed around in pain, with tears streaming down my face, I would beg her to leave…“Please go,“ I would plead, “we’ll be alright!” When the thrashing finally subsided and she lay in relative peace, I would then change my mind and beg her to stay. This begging and pleading for her to stay…then go, went on all night long. I didn’t know what I wanted. Worse still, I didn’t know what she wanted.

At one point during the night, I placed one of my wrists into one of her withered and chemotherapy darkened clenched hands. “They tell me you can’t communicate with me”, I sobbed, “but I know that you are in there somewhere! I just know it!” “Please do something to let me know you’re still here!“ It was then, while still maintaining her vacant gaze, that she lifted my wrist up to her face. And when she no longer had the strength to hold on to it any longer, she let it go. It was all she had left in her power to do; her final gift to me. Acknowledgement. Recognition. I drew her hands back up to my face. My knees buckled as I slid out of my chair, falling onto them; onto the cold, hard linoleum floor … weeping as quietly as I could . In time, those knees began to hurt, but my heart hurt even more.

“there’s an awful lot of breathing room – but I can hardly move”

In that moment, I had no way of knowing that she would die the next day. But within that same moment, there was one thing I did know: As I reflected on her life, and the gracious, generous, loving way she lived it, I began to reason: The only thing worse than not giving enough, is giving too much. During a lifetime, in a valiant attempt to try and make everyone happy, she gave too much. Far too much. I have no plans to follow her lead.

Sure, I’ll be gracious, generous and loving…but I’ll be damned if I surrender it ALL !

“I think I’m finally scared now…you think I’m weak, I think you’re wrong”

Here is where it stops.

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