Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Discussions with God

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.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. (my first comment was typo-ridden.)
    This was a great piece, Stacey. Once again, you wrote about something that would be emotionally difficult and it paid off. I think this was my favourite piece by you so far.
    I really liked the third paragraph, that begins with "The hospital reeks of failing flesh. The room looks like it was meant for two but we’ve cramped it with ten family members." It perfectly described the feeling that a hospital has. The idea of describing the smell is great too. In a second year writing class, I wrote about visiting my dying Grandma at a nursing home, and this reminds me a lot of what I wrote. There's a feeling of unease, saddness, anger. There's a smell that you want to forget. There's a person who doesn't even look like the person you went to go visit. It's sad and it makes you angry. I like the idea of your inner discussion with God, because rather than your own thoughts, it adds a depth to the piece because it brings God into it too, but without being overly preachy and potentially shutting out readers who aren't religious.
    I think my favourite part was how accurately you got the description of the feeling mixed with the setting, which is especially shown in that 3rd paragraph.
    Great job.

  3. Damn. This is a really emotional piece, and you convey that so well. There probably aren’t that many people in the world that haven’t been touched in some way by cancer, whether it’s a personal or happening to family or friends. When reading this I really got a sense of your helplessness, trying to pray because you feel too ‘sedated’ to do anything else.

    I think this piece works so well because it’s a single moment, but you refer to past events, like what your used to be/look like. Your inner thoughts/prayers also really flesh out the scene and tell us what is going on inside your head. The last line is like a punch in the gut.

    One thing: She always favoured her first. Is there a typo in this sentence? It doesn’t quite make sense in context.

    Man. Fuck cancer.

  4. Hello Stacey

    Another good, emotionally touching story. Strong descriptions really help bring the reader into the moment. And you didn’t cop out with the ending with a tacky feel good moment, you just give us a piece of your life at that time.

    One thing I would like to see from you is something alittle bit lighter. All of your posts have been very heavy, emotionally charged moments of serious retrospection. While these posts were done very well, I think it is important (for this class, anyways) to see you branch out and use your writing skills in different ways. It will help develop variety in your writing and to make sure you don’t pigeonhole yourself into writing only for catharsis. I think you can pull off lighter material just as well as you did the more difficult pieces. Hope that helps!

  5. Stacy,
    This piece was extremely emotional! Your description of the hospital room and the final moments was very easy to relate to. I felt as if you were describing my grandmothers death. Your conversation with God created tension causing the reader to feel sad and angry that your grandmother had to die. This was very well done!