I’d visited her bedside as often as I was able, right until a few days before the end. It had been weeks since we really spoke, weeks since I had the nerve to clasp the hand that slipped out from under the yellow blanket, rings loose on those once strong fingers. When I touched her hand that last time she opened her eyes for a moment and smiled a little. I told her it was good to see her and she closed her eyes again. I’m glad she didn’t see my face. I tried to summon up some peaceful energy so she would know it was all right to go when she was ready. It wasn’t me dying. But I felt like static. I was breaking up. I didn’t have the strength to let her go easily. I left, and every visit after that I kept my distance.
I chatted about the weather, which was lovely and fresh outside her window, in the garden she would never tend again.
I talked about my upcoming trip to the lavender fields across the border and I wonder now if she realized that it was her dying that I was running from. I said I would bring her back some sprigs, smuggled through security in my bra. Her husband, passing by the doorway, laughed. Good one, I thought, to talk about bras in earshot of a man whose wife was dying of that woman’s cancer, that pea-sized lump he found that was supposed to be nothing. I still have the sprig that I brought back right here in front of me. It’s supposed to remind me that I’m still here, that I still have the gift of being in this beautiful difficult world and that I need to remember the value of every living moment. It reminds me that I will never have her back.
My nonna, my parents, my uncles and aunts, my bad-boy lover, my poor sad childhood companion, my surrogate mother, the babies who never were, all gone, all mourned but now settled in a pantheon of calm remembrance, do they envy the grief I feel for this one absent friend?
On damp days, the dusty sprig releases a startling perfume, still.
Carol Reid lives and writes on the west coast of Canada. She is a contributing editor to Emprise Review.
© 2010, Carol Reid