This morning a bird is trapped in our screened porch. The poor thing flitters back and forth like a caged maniac, banging into walls and windows.
My wife rushes to open the screen door, saying, “Go on, little bird! Shoo!”
My wife, the animal rescuer, dog adopter, and feral feline vigilante. She is a woman who will halt five lanes of traffic to help a single turtle cross the highway. A woman who once tried to adopt two stray cats on our honeymoon.
She is also the same woman who has been spending each morning, afternoon, and evening with her dying mother. Occasionally I find my wife lying in her mother’s sickbed, curled beside her in the half fetal position.
Nobody ever tells you that dying can be beautiful. Over the past week, we have experienced a lot of beauty. Too much beauty, in fact.
Believe me, there are times when my wife doesn’t think she can stand any more beauty. She just wants the suffering to end.
But it’s beauty nonetheless. And I wish you
could be in that little bedroom with us, amidst the humming medical appliances and the infantries of orange prescription bottles. The room feels like a place where time doesn’t exist. There is almost a feeling of weightlessness. I cannot explain it.
In that dark bedroom there is no calendar. No outside world. No societal demands. No anxieties. All the things in life that everyone thinks are so important—mortgages, careers, schedules, obligations—they aren’t real in this room.
Last night we sat around and sang to my mother-in-law while the patient smiled at us through dried and cracked lips.
We sang songs by Nat King Cole, Elvis Presley, Issac Watts, Fanny Crosby, Sam Cooke, and the Beach Boys. We belted out melodies until finally we asked the patient how she liked our singing.
She opened her eyes and mumbled, “You’re making me nauseous.”
We laughed until…