Nonfiction | Arrivals and Departures

Room 408

that’s where you died

and close summer evening. Secretive, because you insisted on keeping your terminal illness  from your ex-husband, and forbade your children from telling their father their mother was dying. Peevish, sullen, volatile- you had a mood and general countenance I could only describe as gunmetal grey. I don’t blame you, a 51- year old woman set to embrace the prime of her life, hijacked by an unruly disease and now forced to spend her long days and even longer nights lingering, in a hospital ward, waiting for Thyroid Cancer to finally kill her. Though it sure made nursing you a challenge at times. Even though the rapidly growing malignancy on your thyroid gland, and the tracheostomy it eventually necessitated, had silenced you – taken your voice away – your outbursts could be extremely vitriolic just the same. 

In those early days of your admission you lashed out at us all. Dr. C had just terminated your chemotherapy protocol, telling you in his blunt way that all hope had gone: your case is terminal. You did not accept the news graciously. Soon after, a  series of crises led to the need for a tracheostomy. It took your physical voice away, still you spoke to us, though. You did not intend on going gently into that good night. I remember your denial. How, at one point, you decided that the oncologist made a mistake. The reason your head was swelling so severely that it made your eyes close, you announced, was because of an undiagnosed heart condition, not terminal thyroid cancer.  I cannot imagine the  journey, battling this cancer alone. Honestly, even after all these years, whenever my thoughts turn to you, I can’t even.

You hung on. It fucking hurt. You’d think it wouldn’t. You’d think we’d sequester our feelings into some locked partition of our hearts, and that clinical coldness easily presented itself like a blanket, with which we could wrap ourselves. Hear me when I whisper quietly,  I am not a machine. 

 you could not even talk to your own mother on the phone.