While she no longer has the strength to speak, she knows we are there. Her eyes, brown and deep set have always been framed by glasses. I don’t remember a time when she didn’t wear them. I’ve seen pictures of when she was young and I’m always taken aback by the lack of glasses on her face. Now she opens her eyes wide and we get very close to her, so she can see us. As her eyes focus on our faces, she smiles weakly. I see her through teary eyes. I hear her voice in my head, “Don’t cry”. This is what she would say to me, whenever the subject of her death came up in our weekly phone calls. I’d get quiet and she’d say “Are you crying?” No, I’d say, in a voice full of tears. In her calm Mom voice, she’d say “Don’t cry”. It always made me cry harder, just like I am doing now.
After days of keeping a family member in the room with 24/7, she took the 10 minutes when my sister and I stepped out to go to the cafeteria, to take her last breath. Coincidence or did she bestow on us her last motherly protection? We have no memory of watching her take her last gasping breath. There was no dashing into the hallway, calling for a nurse. Did she open her eyes on last time? Was there pain in those last seconds? All of that has to be left to our imagination, our final memories only include the appearance of her gently sleeping. I prefer to think of it as one last gift she gave us.