Monday, February 24, 2014

a moment in the day: noni

I hold Noni's hand, standing by the hospital bed in her living room, where she's come home to die. It's warm, and I worry that I'm making her warmer by holding her hand, but she doesn't ask me to let go. She lies on her back, slightly propped up, eyes closed, breathing in the oxygen that comes from the small tube set just under her nose. Mostly sleeping. The hospice nurse says Noni asked for, and was given, a pill to help her sleep about an hour ago, which means my grandmother's pretty out of it for my goodbye, my maybe - probably - undoubtedly final goodbye.

It's seven-thirty on Sunday, my last morning here before I fly back to Portland. When I arrived a week ago, Noni was still in the hospital. My mom, dad, Stephen and I ran back and forth for visits, then over to her apartment to move the furniture and knicknacks around to make room for the hospital bed. We bought and fluffed sheets and pillow cases, and long, soft t-shirts we could cut down the back so she could be helped in and out of them more easily. She was brought home from the hospital mid-trip, and then it was back and forth to her apartment, just quick visits so as not to exhaust her. My sister and niece standing bedside, Noni too weak to give much response. No need for conversation. Just being near and holding her hand was enough.

Yesterday, Saturday, was Ragnarok. The Norse apocalypse. Flood, destruction, death of the gods. Apparently, somebody predicted it would take place on February 22, 2014. Midday, my brother and I took his nearly two year old daughter to the park to play. On a wide field of grass, Abby ran that way toddlers run, like a weightless, wobbling, joyful maniac, and Frank and I followed. Abby picking up sticks: "Stick!" Abby picking up pine cones: "Cone!" Abby running through clouds of bubbles, Frank with one hand working the bubble gun and one hand taking pictures with his camera.

photo courtesy of frank little

When we visited with Noni that day, she said, "It takes so long to die."

It's getting to be time to leave for the airport, now. I lean in and say, "Noni? I have to go. I just wanted to say I love you and I'm glad I had a chance to spend this time with you." Or something. I don't know what I say. Something clumsy and inadequate, but Noni, eyes closed, doesn't move. She may be asleep. I bend myself over the metal bars at the side of the bed for one more kiss.

Kisses are strange, here, at the end of things. She doesn't kiss back - too much effort to move - and you're kind of afraid you'll hurt her, and you're not sure where to kiss her, cheek, lips, forehead. Your lips find her forehead, the smooth of it, the slightly clammy, slightly cool of it, and you leave a little touch on her skin, and all it feels is not enough.


  1. A great picture with all the wild arms and legs of life in its different stages and the goings-on of baby and grandmother just being. One moment seeing through your eyes the next stepping inside your thoughts. I love this about your writing- the side dialogues you have as you try and figure things out. Your last sentence was just sublime. xo

  2. That's so beautiful, sweetie. "Beautiful" isn't really enough, this time, but that's all I have.

    (I read this first on the streetcar coming home and, when I read the last line, had to turn toward the window and pull back a little sob....)

  3. Crying beyond words. I know exactly what that feels like and you put it into words. Noni, God bless you. Gigi, you are so gracious w/words that I hold deep within my heart and not able to express. Thank You. Jacque

  4. **sniff** My grandmother is also at this same place. Thank you for sharing, it is somehow comforting :)

  5. I'm sorry to hear you're in the same spot. It's hard even when they've had a good, long life. I love to hear that my own story is a bit of comfort.

    Thanks, you all, for the lovely words.