the day she died

Before I entered her room,
I had been kindly warned
to prepare for the worst.
I wasn’t sure what that meant
or how to heed such words,
so I stumbled to my father first
and took him in my arms.

In the event, it didn’t matter—
my mother’s eyes were closed
with so much medication
coursing through her veins
to dull the enveloping pains
that sleep was the only thing
her failing body could manage.

Once or twice that long day
her heavy lids slowly rose
yet quickly lowered again
her mind cognizant of nothing
her once eager voice silenced
her pale flesh sinking steadily
into the coldly wrinkled sheets.

For hours we spoke beside her
as if somehow she could hear,
and I prayed in my heart that
she might speak to me once more,
but all I heard as darkness fell
was her harshly rasping breath
and the lengthening pauses between.

Although I had indeed been warned
to prepare for the worst that day,
I know now with painful certainty
that the worst was not that moment
seeing her cancered body dying there,
but rather thinking of all the days,
the years that had quietly passed

while we had been apart.

My mum, Dora Mae Stewart, with my father George near Monterey, California (May 2006)