At first, I drove mother to all of her doctor appointments
she’d sit in unfamiliar fashion on the passenger side
trying to show a supportive smile –
even though she was the one who needed encouragement.
We’d drive the thirty miles to the local hospital
most often in silence, observing the highway
listening to the wind whistle through the window
and contemplating whatever it was that was on our minds.
For me, I can never truly know how she felt
I was only a silent observer
I would run errands, shop for food and cook her meals
all the while, she was the one who struggled.
She struggled to smile when she lost her hair
but she learned to tie scarves fashionably around her head
and she continued to hold her head high
despite the desire to shed more than a few tears.
She was tired, she said, and afraid.
As she grew weaker, I tried my best to tempt her
with gourmet meals and entertainment
I’d clean the house while she slept nearby
and when she was awake, she would struggle to help,
but I demanded it was my turn to care for her.
When mother stopped eating,
I would spend hours reading to her
she would close her eyes and listen
sometimes, even managing a smile
though it was much harder now.
Other times, I would listen
when she had the strength to speak
I would hear the long, forgotten tales
of her childhood
newly sprung from her lips
and I was grateful to listen
to understand her that much more.
It was a gift, these moments with her
despite her obvious pain
for it was then that I felt I truly knew her.
In the end – she slipped into a coma
and though the heart of her
was no longer there
I still felt her presence.
I would bathe her
rub her back with lotion
and continue discussing
the stories that she had told to me.
I knew that it would not be much longer
I knew that every day that passed
with her still alive was a gift
and when at last, she forced her last breath
I held her body close to me and sang her to sleep.
© Sumyanna 2017
This poem is purely fictional.