The house is quiet. The hospice nurse is here to check on Mary, my mother-in-law. The rattling in Mary’s chest is bad. She is talking gibberish in her sleep, too, which the nurse says is common among those who are dying.
Earlier this morning one of the aunts stopped by. But Mary was sleeping.
“Can I sneak in and look at her?” asked the aunt as tears dripped from her cheekbones.
The aunt peeked into the bedroom and was confronted with the modern machinery of medical care. An oxygen machine that sounded like a small lawnmower, with long tubes going to Mary’s nasal cannula.
The aunt covered her mouth and cried. “Oh, bless her.”
But the strange thing is, nobody wore the kinds of faces you’d associate with grief—those faces will come later. Right now everyone wears a warm face. Ours are the faces of people tangled up in nostalgia.
“Who’s she talking to?” said the aunt, dabbing her eyes.
“Don’t know,” said my wife. “She’s been talking in her sleep all day. She’s talking to someone.”
“Maybe it's God.”
When the aunt left the house, everything went quiet again. And this is the oddest part of dying. The quiet. I’m not used to this house being so unearthly silent.
Long ago, this house used to be the loudest place on the block. When my father-in-law was alive, these walls vibrated with 24-hour cable news. After he died, my mother-in-law blared non-stop HGTV. She bled Chip-and-Joanna blue. But now.
Now it’s radio silence.
The caregivers sit nearby, clad in scrubs, killing time on phones. My wife is reading a hospice pamphlet. I hear a clock ticking. The refrigerator hums. It’s like a library in here.
More relatives pay a visit. They enter with smiling and tearful faces. And I’m noticing a trend here. Those faces again. Nobody wears the forlorn expressions of pity, they wear looks I…