My friend is dying. She laid atop her bed in a fetal position, fully clothed, coat and purse at the ready by the foot of her bed. Her eyes half-closed, or maybe half-open. She looked pale, tired, and gaunt. She wanted to go out for a bite to eat, but not really. Her stomach had been paining her for several days already, it was distended and hard. She wanted to pretend that she was well, like she used to be, able to rise and move quickly and join me for a Coney or Taco Bell run. But her body had gotten the best of her; the fatigue she could no longer deny.
Maybe I’ll rest just a little longer.
I removed her shoes and covered her with an afghan, hung her coat and drawered the purse. We would spend the evening inside this time, without food or talk thereof.
I watched her stir in fitful sleep. Her stomach growled in loud protest to the little room it held amidst the growing masses of poisonous consumption. I cannot fathom being in her skin; I wonder if she can understand being in mine.
Nineteen months earlier I’d been forced to bid another close friend farewell. I sat by her side as her body succumbed identical to the scene before me. Same pain, same poison, same patient. I beckoned her to remain close to her comadre, to midwife her transition and welcome her home.
The thunder in her belly grew louder and tears began to escape from behind the veil covering her eyes.
I hate this. I hate it all.
I thought the same as the words left her lips. I rose and lay on the bed beside her. She rolled to her back, handed me the pillow she’d been hugging between her arms, and tucked her toes under my thigh. I rested my hand on her boney knee and gently caressed her leg as she spoke.
She spoke of fear: not of death, but of pain … of having to say goodbye … of putting others through loss, especially her mother … of not expecting this death to have arrived so soon …
And we shared the silence. The unspoken heartache of the moment. The here and the now which would forever be one of the last. We cried and we honored the wordless ache we both harbored hidden from the other.
Then came a knock at the door: her night meds. She rose to brush her teeth and I readied her bed for sleep. I tucked her into bed and we embraced in deep love and gratitude for the sacrament shared. I arose and stepped toward the door, then turned back and told her “I love you, Mar.”
I love you, too, Sar.