Dear God, if she’s going to die, don’t let her suffer.
I know we haven’t talked in awhile. I can’t even remember how to anymore. When I think of you, I think of protestors who think piety means politics. I think of school teachers telling me what God wants me to do. I don’t think of these talks. I really should.
The hospital reeks of failing flesh. The room looks like it was meant for two but we’ve cramped it with ten family members. Uncle John left Randi at home. Death is too much for a seven year old. My fifteen and twelve year old cousins make nervous jokes in the adjoining room.
I haven’t seen this woman before. I thought I was coming to watch my Nonna die but she’s been replaced. Some nurse replaced her with a sickly mannequin. Her sallow yellow skin sucks into her face, making her once smiling cheeks cavernous.
There she is, God. She’s closer to you than she’s ever been. Her liver has given up and her food has no where to go. Cancer won. Thanks a lot.
What good did her hours of prayer do for her? She talked to you constantly about everything. No matter what went wrong with my life, she said you had a meaning for it. She didn’t lie to me, you did.
I feel sedated. I try to make my fuzzy thoughts focus on something living. A nurse talks to my dad and uncle about pulling the plug. I cover my ears with my hands and sob quietly into my lap.
You could stop this if you wanted to. You could make it all go away. C’mon, if you’re so fucking great, give me a miracle right now! Let her talk. Let me hear her voice one more time. I don’t care if she tells me to go to hell, just let her talk.
I haven’t heard her speak in a week. I remember going over to her house at lunch and eating delivered KFC in her open living room. “Oooh, don’t you look beauty-ful today buhlah.” She sat in the same chair. The TV was usually on a spiritual program or a children’s show to appease my brother and I.
She spends most of her time resting. I imagine there isn’t much to do in hospice. My mother would know better. She works on the next floor. Despite my parents’ divorce, she came to say goodbye to her mother-in-law. My Uncle John and Auntie Gail try to hide their sniffles, but my cousins don’t really know what’s happening. My brother tries to be tough, but I know he can’t handle this either. I’ve had more time with her. She always favoured her first.
My dad hasn’t cried yet. He looks around the room anxiously as though he has somewhere else to be. He hugs her like a bar buddy and then pats her hands. “My favourite son,” she said to the doctor last week. I like to think she was being sarcastic.
My mother taps on my shoulder. “Go say goodbye to Nonna.”
I wonder if she’s had enough time to say goodbye. A priest came a week ago to deliver her last rites. Do those things have an expiration date? A week feels like a long time for God to remember his blessings. Maybe someone takes notes. Maybe he forgets.
Okay, I take it back. I was a bit harsh on that last one. I’m not ready yet. Two weeks ago she was fine. Now… cancer? A little notice would have been nice. Did you give her notice?
I’m kneeling beside her now. Her formerly bright and welcoming eyes peek out as slits. She’s refusing water, leaving her mouth dry and parched. I just want her to say anything.
I want to kiss her but her skin scares me now. Holding her hand could make the sky change colour but now I flinch. I give her a half hearted kiss.
Tell me what she’s thinking. Will she miss me? Will she be too happy to see Nonno that she’ll forget me? Does she hate me for not calling her back? You can have her tomorrow. Today she’s mine.
She groans as I put my hand on her face. She blinks fast and then closes her eyes. I say goodbye. I’m the last one.
Promise me you’ll love her more.
The nurse checks with my father and uncle whether it’s okay now to pull the plug. Her eyes close, she’s resolved. The nurse turns off the machine. We watch her take her last breaths. They get softer. Quieter.
The beeping stops. The nurse checks her pulse. I wonder if my prayers were heard.