She remembered you the longest, people said. Maybe. I am the oldest, I’ve been around the longest, we spent the most time together, just by a little. She liked strangers. She lost all of us, eventually. It wasn’t that we were strangers that scared her, it was the misfiring and numbing of her mind.
The last thing she said to me was something about how life was painful. I don’t think she knew who I was. I agreed, though, of course, I agreed. I kissed her head, patted her arm, which was our best communication, which began after she was very sick, and I left, it was just after Christmas.
At the hospice facility, there was: a sculpture made of two metal flowers that had petals to catch the wind, and they rotated opposite each other, flew past each other, which looked Buddhist to me. There were: two armchairs I set facing each other so I could lie down, sort of, and cover myself with the sheet my aunt had boldly taken from the nurse’s closet. There was: Strawberry Shortcake Memory, which I realized too late was not going to be a good way to pass the time, in fact the game served only to show that my memory was cloudier than usual, even, as I waited for my sister to get all the matches, in fact my thinking was so cloudy it didn’t strike me as funny we were playing Memory while Grandma died of Alzheimer’s.
Many things were funny at hospice, though, many things.
The password to the wi-fi is not death or morphine, I hate to tell you.
When someone is dying, people want to read poetry and sing songs. Being an artist, you can feel like what you do is frivolous, but then, when someone is dying, everyone wants art, not just artsy people who drink wine at museums. Poems, prayers, music.
I always remember color: my mother’s sweater was so green, my grandma’s nightgown was coral, a cap over her weak shoulder. Her shoulder jerked or pulled sometimes. That is just where all my tension is, too, shoulders.
I got a massage today.
I got the call she had died, I quickly dressed and went to noon mass, we celebrated the feast of Frederick Douglass. Although I had hurried, I was late. I missed the lessons. Walked in at the sermon. He was free, she was free, I guess. I went to get coffee and a bagel, the best bagel in Kansas City, not saying much but something, and I wrote the first draft of her obituary. See, again: art is good for something after all.
Being hours and hours at the hospice place was like being on a space station. We were all orbiting somewhere. One night when we left there were stars, Orion was right there. The other night when we left, the whole sky was one cloud. It was hard to remember it was cold outside, that there was weather at all.
Others of us couldn’t sleep, I slept fine, seemed to, just felt tired when I woke. For the whole dying process, it seemed like someone was calling my name or texting me every time I went to pee or turned on shower water. The whole dying thing made everyone related to me circle up and we panicked when anyone strayed. Where are you? What are you doing now? Where are you going to be? I am not usually this herdable, but, you know, someone died.
I flew back to New York only to turn around and go back for the funeral. The word LaGuardia, the taxi line, Hebrew on the buildings means we are close to my home, the subway in the morning, little girl next to me with long brown hair looked up at me and smiled.