By Jane Shore
Once the patient stops drinking liquids, he's got
up to 14 days to live. If he takes even a sip
of water, you reset the clock.
Eleven days without a drop. The rabbi
made his rounds. They stopped her
IV and her oxygen. I asked them
to please turn off the TV's live feed
to the empty hospital chapel, lens
focused on the altar and crucifix—
it seemed like the wrong God watching
over her, up there, near the ceiling.
And because hearing is the last
sense to go, the nice doctor spoke
to me in a separate room. He said
it's time to say good-bye. Next day,
he returned her to her nursing home
to die. Her nurses said just talk
to her; let her hear a familiar voice.
I jabbered to the body in the bed.
I kept repeating myself, as I'd done
on visits before, as if mirroring
her dementia. I rubbed her hand,
black as charcoal from the needles.
I talked the way a coach spurs on
a losing team. Suddenly she opened
her eyes, smiled her famous smile,
she knew me, and for the first time
in a year of babbling, she spoke
my name, then, in her clearest voice
said, "I love you. You look beautiful.
This is wonderful." I urged her
to sip water through a straw. Then
two cold cans of cranberry juice,
she was that thirsty. Her fingertips
pinked up like a newborn's.
I wanted the nurses to acknowledge
my miracle, to witness my devotion
although I'd been absent all spring.
They reset the clock, resumed her oxygen.
I was like God, I'd revived her. Now
I'd have to keep talking to keep her alive.
I thought it was a really lovely Thursday -- overcast but not rainy, cool but not cold, though I have been assured by a couple of people that in fact it was gray and gloomy and chilly, so I may be wrong. I had to run out to a couple of stores -- we were out of my favorite cereal and imitation chicken patties, for starters -- and I was too warm in my jacket, which I didn't even wear when I went for a walk in the afternoon (no bunny today but lots of squirrels). In the late afternoon I went to meet
I missed last week's Nikita watching