The night she died a mudslide of grief began to wipe out whole systems in my body one by one, shutting down my power. I was struggling to breathe whatever air was left for me, as I stood next to my grandmother’s bed, holding her cool hand, her nails meticulously polished in red just last week by her manicurist, Joy, who always painted a little flower on her ring finger. Her hair was recently cut and colored, although severely flattened from resting so long on the pillow.
It was one day shy of the month of May, amber light from street lamps filled the quiet parking lot down below. Having just rained, everything outside glistened in the soft light. A whole world of life was happening just beyond the sturdy pane of glass. Friday night pizzas were being delivered to children and exhausted parents. While in here doctors were moving around slowly in the blinding light of the hallway. In here death hung on me like a drunken friend.
I lay my head down on her shoulder as oxygen from a machine breathed her in and out. Her chest looked surprised at the sudden push of air, inflating on demand on every other whish, whish, whish, whish. I’d been in that engine-driven room so long that I began to hear the artificial air whisper to me, “She is dying. She is dying. She is dying.”
Time was running out. We were down to hours. Maybe only minutes to say our good byes, to thank the nurses, to leave this room for good. Grandma stared up at the ceiling, her brown eyes ringed in light blue; they seemed to float in tiny ponds of thin milk. The thought that I would never again hear her greet me with “Hi Baby” I held in my arms, pulled tightly into my chest, like a giant stone I couldn’t put down. I returned to the swell of silence. And was at once aware of the sound the soul makes as she begins peeling herself from the body.