Part one of a memory, a giveaway and the story.
Over the next days I would arrive at various times to wait for the end. My sister was never responsive regardless of whether the sky outside her window was the promise pink of morning, the deep afternoon blue of a desert sky or the velvet purple of night.
No matter what time of day it was, I continued to read with my hand on her forearm.
Sometimes I would put the book down to rest my eyes and then I would fill the quiet with songs that I thought she would like...’Where have all the Flowers Gone?’, ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’, and ‘Forever Young’. I never attempted singing the rock songs we both liked, but I did bring my guitar in from the car one afternoon to sing the Christmas songs to her that she had always loved. I closed the door to her room and sang my heart out. She never responded.
Hours went by. It was one of those suspended times when the days blur together...was it Tuesday? What was the date? Some days it felt like I had been sitting in that chair reading that book forever...other times it felt like I had just arrived and the waiting was only beginning.
Hospice continued to check her.
“Oh, no...no signs yet,” they would say.
And so it was that on the day before she died we arrived at the last chapter of the book. On that evening I drove home with the windows down and the sunroof open. I remember crying and laughing in the car. I remember playing Aerosmith and the Police and Foreigner really, really loudly. I sat in the garage when I arrived home so the music could finish.
I spent the night dreaming of ringing telephones and cathedrals and girls twirling around in white dresses.
When I arrived the next morning, my Dad was there. He looked weary. Hospice came in while we were there together and checked my sister. “No signs, yet,” they said confidently, “Probably at least 24 hours longer.”
I walked my Dad a short way down the hall. “Now don’t leave her alone,” he admonished me. I assured him I wouldn’t and hurried back to be with her.
I talked to her briefly and opened the window just a bit to let fresh air into the sterile room.
Resting my hand on her forearm, I started reading bits and pieces of the last chapter.
Reluctantly I turned the last page.
I didn’t want the book to end. It had felt like a journey to a place far removed from the reality of what was actually happening.
Words to an old folk song came to mind, and I started singing the old Peter, Paul and Mary song, ‘500 Miles’, to my sister.
Just then my husband called my cell.
I stopped singing to answer his call.
I told him we had finished the book and I was wondering what we could read next. As I was talking to him my sister took a deep, deep breath.
I said, “Let me call you back, Liz is breathing strangely.”
I hung up.
There were no more breaths.
I was shocked.
I jumped up and went into the hall to find a nurse. It was breakfast time and the hall was crammed with residents in wheelchairs and walkers. I tried running down the hall to the nurse’s station and it was like an obstacle course. I was freaking out! Pushing wheelchairs out of the way! Trying to get some help!
The nurse’s station was empty. I realized I had left my sister alone.
I had promised my parents I wouldn’t.
“Holy crap!” I thought, “She is probably not even dead!”
I ran the gauntlet of wheelchairs and walkers to get back to her room.
“Holy crap!” I thought. “She is still dead!”
I called my parents.
I called my husband.
A nurse came in and asked if she could get us anything. I said, “I need help. I think my sister is dead!”
The nurse said, “Oh no, honey, I read her notes...she is still stable and...”
She looked at me in surprise.
I think she gulped.
She checked her pulse and said, “Oh my, you’re right. She is dead.”
It was really, really strange.
I was so worried my parents would be angry for me leaving her alone while I ran for help.
I was so worried that I should have done something.
...just like that...
...all the worry left me and I felt great relief for her.
She was finally free.
Free of pain. Free of being trapped in a body that no longer worked. Free of suffering.
But I’ve always wondered.
She was unresponsive. How did she know it was the last chapter?
Why did she wait?
Was it just a coincidence?
I think of the lyrics to the song I was singing to her right before she died...”If you miss the train I’m on, you will know that I am gone, you can hear the whistle blow 100 miles...”
And somehow, in the deepest part of my heart, I think she was waiting. Waiting to hear the end of the story...waiting to catch her train.
I'd like to do a little giveaway in honor of my sister.
I will be giving away two (2) $25.00 e-gift certificates to Barnes and Noble so that you can get your own copy of Pillars of the Earth...or whatever book your heart desires.
You can enter twice...once on yesterdays part one and once today by leaving a comment here telling me if you have a memory of a loved one associated with a specific book.
I will use Random ORG on Saturday morning to post both winners. Winners will have 48 hours to send me their e-mail addresses. If you don't respond, I'll select a new winner(s) on Monday, March 26.
This I know. I also know that other thing.
2 days ago