As my mother lies dying in a hospice bed, my sister sits vigil alone. And yet not alone…
My mind wanders to a room in which you sit
Among the gloom of death watch.
There are no windows and no walls as the fog
From ceiling falls in death watch.
On your lap an open book that whispers
That you take a look away from death watch.
My mind’s eye searches for the spirit wandering
So very near it that you can touch it with your eyes
As mother, dying, nearby lies.
To be there with you as you wait for waking or
Another fate; a death watch.
To hold your hand in a shared loss
As only we know the true cost
Of the living being lost in time upon white
Pillows, half aware of death watch.
A week ago so vibrant; shining.
Then two thousand miles away
The text arrives with chiming: Call me.
The message simple, urgent, brief
Portends no element of grief.
She fell. She has pneumonia, infections.
But all is well. And then
Her circulation…fighting oxygen, IVs that feed her
Nutrients she lacks…and yet refuses as she tugs
On lifelines as at filthy sacks that bore into her
Tender flesh. And yet she fights.
But not for life, as once she fended off
Rents upon her soul. Death watch.
My sister dearest, I wish in earnest
To sit with you and comfort you as by our mother’s bed
You turn old memories in your head of happy times,
Though few they were, yet sweeter for their rarity
And thus a wondrous clarity.
Surrounded as you are by loved ones who so loved her too, none can share
The grief as well as sisters who have much to tell of love and laughter,
Singing, joy; her proud gift of a favored toy; the special treat
To lift the gloom of illness or a broken heart on either part.
Now alone you sit, though love shines brightly through the fog of death watch.
My fate, my life, took me out to sea to an island on which I don’t want to be;
My heart, my soul sits at your side, as the hours, as seconds,
Trickle down the glass walls of death watch.
God is not alone with you; my soul, too, floats nearby
As Mother in her deathbed lies and you sit vigil,
But not alone, in death watch.