Excerpt from COOKING FOR HER EYES
Leaning against the wall outside of the hospice room, waiting for my heart to slow down and sync with the still of the moment, I wondered how time could seemingly pass with such high speed—like a movie in fast-forward—then suddenly switch, just like that, to slow motion.
“She’s ready. You can go in now,” the nurse said. Her voice was kind, and she spoke with a slight Japanese accent.
I turned and saw Nurse Misayo greeting me with a soft smile. Tiny in stature, with an ever-so-shallow bow, she welcomed me into the room, her open palm guiding me toward the bed where her patient lay.
“The ride from the hospital was difficult, and she seemed a bit agitated,” Nurse Misayo said in a lowered voice, “so I gave her something to settle her. I hope you don’t mind.”
I managed to nod in thanks. My feet were heavy and immobile.
Nurse Misayo smiled. “Go to her. Tell her you’re here. She’ll want to hear your voice.”
I closed my eyes briefly and nodded again before the nurse left the room. Stepping toward the bed, toe-heel, toe-heel, I saw her lying there. Her breath was shallow but peaceful as if she were taking an afternoon nap under a crisp white sheet folded neatly over a loosely knit, white cotton blanket. Her arms, elbows slightly bent, rested gracefully at her side.
Her hands were relaxed and beautiful. Just a few days earlier, she had treated herself to a mani-pedi, choosing a rich, creamy, pinkish-salmon nail polish. The tips of her manicured hands contrasted with the whiteness that cradled her, reminding me of early blossoms of her beloved sakura after a light spring snowfall. The fragrance of fresh linen filled me. Time, once moving so fast then slow, now seemed to suspend itself for her, floating above her—buoyant—weightless. My tears fell onto her crisp, white sheets.
I wrestled with thoughts in my head.
It’s her time now. Your journey together will end soon, and she’ll need to let go.
But I need more time.
Time. We never have enough of it–in our work, with our kids, even while on vacation. And time is never more starkly for want than when we face death. We’re all confronted with death at some point, with a loved one, a pet, or ourselves, and either way, it’s difficult to think about it, much less discuss. I’m not a professional on this subject, but I have experienced the deaths of people I loved, and my loss overwhelmed me so much so that my emotions transcended any logic I thought I had. Longevity runs in my family, and life spared me the inevitability of losing my parents until I was well into adulthood. I know many people who have lost loved ones and eventually managed to go on with their lives, but I felt blindsided and had no idea how difficult it would be to face it myself–I had trouble letting go of them. While in the throes of grief for too many years, I finally found enough acceptance of my parents’ death, where I felt a sense of resolution, sort of. It’s so hard to say good-bye.
I express my thoughts on the subject of death and hope your mind will find a bit of peace.
ESSAY: On Death
“Fate worse than death.” How many times have we heard or used that phrase? Yes, it’s true, death is final–leaving our family, friends, and work we love, or being left behind by someone we love is frightening. But the reality is, if we live, then we will die, and there’s no other way to look at it–or is there? How do we accept our mortality? How do we prepare for death, and is it possible to embrace it? Click on the sakura, cherry tree, to read further.
ESSAY: What is Hospice?
(Excerpt from COOKING FOR HER EYES)
“I inspected my mother’s darkened room and saw its soft-yellow walls and an oversized beige, leather reclining chair in the corner. Along the wall across from her bed, was a small, upholstered sofa in quiet tones of beige, yellow, rose, and pale willow green. Cherry-stained wooden Venetian blinds tilted slightly, let the sun’s narrow slits gently tumble onto the dark-stained hardwood floor. An incandescent lamp on her bedside table cast a warm glow on her relaxed face. The stark contrast of the hospital’s cold, visually harsh environment to this tranquil setting of simplicity, with its soft colors and smell of fresh linens, brought me immediate relief.
So, this is hospice.
For the first time in many days, I felt my neck, shoulders, and back begin to release its tension, and I was able to breathe deeply.”