I See Angels – A Memoir Part 2

Mr. Wilson next door is dying. His family is with him; his wife sits quietly holding his hand. I find myself wondering how they met. Did he like to hold her in his arms as they danced the night away? Did they argue a lot? What’s their story? The one we all create in the process of living. The nurses draw the curtains. Dim the lights. Begin to whisper as they approach that room.

After a few more hours of sleep Mom wakes up. Her mind is clear and she is eagerly awaiting her visitors. My sister is the first to come by and I leave them alone for while. It’s only fair since I have Mom all to myself at night.
This is my time to walk in the sun, to breath in air free of disinfectant. I crave a cigarette. The urge is so strong that if I had my purse with me I know I would buy a pack, rip it open and take a deep satisfying draw, then toss my head back in defiance before I took another and another.

Then I would cough and wheeze and feel terrible. I know that and I’m grateful that I left my money back in the room. I don’t want to fight that fight again. You’d think that after seven years; the urge would be gone. But no, it’s just hiding. Stalking me like a cat, waiting to spring at me when I’m most vulnerable.It’s not going to get me today. It’s a small victory but one for the win box just the same.

Mom is in her glory holding court when I return. Her kids, grandkids, some great grandkids all competing to entertain her. She is opening cards, reading them aloud and laughing.

Her nurse asks to speak with my sister and me. We have been designated as spokespersons for the family. They have decided to release her in the morning. Either to a nursing home or to us but there is nothing more they can do for her here. Home, we tell them. She’s going home. I will stay with her and all of us will attend to her needs. We have arranged for hospice care to assist us.

We thought we were ready for this but we aren’t. My sister and I make the announcement and excuse ourselves for the rest of the afternoon. We dust and vacuum the house, put clean sheets on the hospital bed now sitting in the den. Lisa orders flowers to be delivered tomorrow late in the day. We stock the refrigerator with all the things she likes and all the supplies we’ll need to feed her constant stream of visitors. We go out to lunch.

“Where the have you been?” she demands, as I walk into her room. Her visitors are gone and she is alone.

“I went to buy groceries for the house,” I tell her.

“I don’t need any groceries. And get that tray out of here. The smell is making me sick.” Feeling chastened like the little girl she used to scold I pick up her tray and carry it out to the kitchen. I call for her nurse and she is given some medicine for the nausea and slips into sleep once again.

We spend a quiet night. I turn down the lights and let her rest. Opening a Power Bar for dinner I spend the evening chatting with the night nurses.

“Hey, I’m hungry. Where’s my breakfast? Are you people trying to starve me or what?” I can’t believe it. It’s Mr. Wilson! He’s wide awake and sitting naked in his bed.

“Get me some pants!” he demands. “I’m not gonna sit here in some stupid gown all day. Where’s my food? Bring me some coffee too, with cream not that powdered stuff either.” As the aides scurry to get him clothed again an order is put in for a breakfast tray. Calls are made and his family begins to arrive.

Mom’s skin has a mottled look to it this morning and she is not waking up. Sometime during the night she has slipped into unconsciousness. They have changed places. Mr. Wilson is better. Mom is dying.

I place a call to my sister. The family gathers once more. The nurses draw the curtain, dim the lights. They begin to whisper as they approach her room. We can hear the Wilson family laughing, see the flowers being delivered. He is reading his get well cards. They glance in as they pass by, indicating sympathy and understanding with a nod before dropping their gaze.

Her chest is barely moving now; her expression peaceful. I won’t be taking her home after all. Slowly her eyes drift open, her gaze touches briefly on each of us until finally she comes to me.

“I see angels,” she whispers. “Three of them, right over there.”

“I see them too,” I answer. “They’re surrounded by light and don’t have any wings.”
I’m not sure what she sees but her gaze is full of wonder and the room is so full of love I know I must let go. I search her face for confirmation. She nods and I whisper, “I love you,” in a language only she can understand as she slips away and I am at peace knowing that when I go through those doors again, she will indeed be with me.


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