Chapter 9

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Breakfast at the nursing home arrived on a tray with oatmeal and milk sliding about on it. A little card with her name, Sara Stanley. Mom had managed to eat a little every day so far. That was encouraging, but the thought that she was dying still persisted. Eating was good, but it was not a sign of a miracle. It was a gift of time.

Mary raised the head of the bed while I moved the hospital tray over the bed where we could slide it under the bed and across her lap. Mom tried to shift herself to get more comfortable but didn't have the strength to do it. Mary ended up helping her. After a few minutes, Mom was settled and as comfortable as she could be.

I felt my chest tighten and tears burn my eyes. She looked so small in the bed. Granted, she was always a small woman who came up to my chin. Women in her family were all small. We slowly got taller with each new generation. But now she looked smaller than ever. Her five foot two frame appeared to be half a foot shorter. It was more than her height or lack of in the bed. It was her spirit. She was a tiny version of the mother we all knew who took life by the horns and us along with it.

"What is it?" Mom asked as I slid the tray in front of her. Her eyes moved slowly over the sparse tray. Their usual sparkle was missing and replaced by a cloudy look.

I leaned over the tray. "There is a bowl of oatmeal. Do you want some sugar on it?"

She nodded slightly and watched as I sprinkled the brown sugar from the packet onto the oatmeal. "Add some milk." Her hand weakly waved toward the carton.

Once the oatmeal was to her satisfaction, I got a little on a spoon at Mary's nod. Mom took the bite I offered and spent a minute slowly chewing it. It wasn't the first time I had fed her. Once she had had surgery on her right hand and couldn't use her left efficiently to do many things. I had helped her eat and get dressed for nearly two weeks. I tried to think of those times which were not as fatal.

She opened her mouth for another bite. The room grew quiet as we both focused on Mom and her breakfast. I was surprised at how well her appetite was. I looked up at Mary and caught her eye.

"This is the best she has eaten in several days," Mary whispered.

A glimmer of hope flickered inside me. I couldn't help it. I knew the reality of what was going to happen, but the news was not bad. It was a positive thread that I grasped onto. It made me feel better. It was a way to positively trick myself to be more optimistic.

"What day is it?" Mom asked after swallowing some milk. I wiped her mouth to remove the drops of milk that had escaped.

"Wednesday," Mary answered.

"How long have I been in this place?" Mom pushed at the tray. She was done.

I wheeled the tray away as Mary washed Mom's face with a warm washcloth.

"Just a few days."

I looked over at Mary. It had not escaped my notice that they were not giving her solid answers. If Mom knew the exact truth, it would only agitate her. The less she knew the better. In a way it felt like we were betraying her, but would I want to know that everything was being done to prepare my body for death? I don't think I would. Why get upset over it when there was nothing to do about it?

Mom began to drift off again, apparently satisfied with Mary's answer. Her eyelids fluttered closed. Her mouth pursed a little before relaxing. As she settled down, we moved back to our own seats and watched her.

"Is there something else we can do for her?" It was weird to just sit and watch someone die. It was unnatural. It was downright creepy. The woman lay in her bed as her body gave out. Were we to just sit and cheer or sit and cry? What was our role?

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