The tick-tock always stops too soon.
|Death did not gently knock on the door and ask if we were ready. He did not tip toe around under our noses or slide through unlocked doors or windows. Mr. Death barged in and pushed us around and told us how it was going to be. He will have it his way, on his schedule. We are to jump to his every whim, and not ask questions; as death won’t answer us, or put our minds at rest with timetables or calendars or reprieves of any measure.
He wants us to wonder – he forces us to take each breath and feel each moment as though it is the last. Mr. Death is not a fan of complacency and he eradicates denial as he pulls his dark curtain close around the death bed , then opens it just long enough to keep us on our toes and hopeful that he will go out for coffee and forget that he was here. But we know – we feel him throwing his weight around the room.
He is not the friendly man you see in movies that brings the dying to the beach to breath salt air, that sips tea and holds fragile hands and inspires the words we always wanted to say but could not. This Mr. Death will have none of that. He is sneaky as well, conspiring with his PR Spin Angels who are secretly disguised as Hospice workers. They do their best to pretty him up, put him on his best behavior, knock him out for a bit with some heavy duty morphine, but even they know who calls the shots in the end.
As much as I hate him, he is an excellent teacher. His first lesson for me was that he is always here and his clock is always ticking, it’s just as he wanders around the bed the tick-tock in his pocket rings like a bell tower in the room and vibrates our souls.
He has also taught me that my goodbye with my mother will not come all at once placed tearfully upon her check as she breathes one last breath – but that it is trickling out, slowly. That a final goodbye is not just about that one real heartfelt conversation, but that is also comes in the silent hours beside the deathbed – listening to each other breathe, patting, holding, cussing, caressing and crying together. I know our final coherent talk came last week, and Mr. Death and I are no longer on speaking terms because of it.
After the last two weeks of being rude and inhospitable to him I think though, that I will be asking him to take a chair. I finally understand he is not leaving till his work is done. So for now, I am just asking him to sit in the corner like a good boy, take a time-out for being mean, and leave the living up to us for as long as possible.
I wrote this at 10 a.m. Sept 10, 2008, my mother died at 12:20 a.m. Sept 11, 2008