Saying Goodbye

Nonfiction by | July 18, 2010

I think I was the last person she saw before she went into coma. Her vitals dropped earlier that morning and so we gathered by her bedside at two in the morning. A few of her friends were there, family members, me and my sister, while she took deep heaves for elusive oxygen. Our pastor friend was there and by the looks of it, I could guess, he suffered a momentary distress as to what to pray for. What could we pray for? Plaster all the punctures in the heart? Revive the collapsed left lung? Scrape off all the cancer from the liver? In one miraculous swoop? I’m sure God could do all that, but I’m quite content that God was just there in the love of the people she spent her life with.

So the pastor, finally asked us: “What do you want to pray for?” Nobody answered. It was as if it was all too much to ask. But someone had to answer. “If she’s going, I pray she does so painlessly,” I replied. Almost everyone bowed their heads. Was that too rash? Heartless? Too fast?

The ICU seemed to get colder.

So we prayed. The preacher stumbled for words, rephrasing, paraphrasing. Would euphemisms help? But I understood. I understood with gratitude in my heart, that he prayed.

After the prayer, we all stood there, watching her. I had nothing on my mind, perhaps, the others too. No one spoke a word, until half an hour later, she stabilized.

One by one, people started to leave. Not today, not today, I guessed.

I said thanks for those who visited. The last ones were a few family members, then they too, left for home.

I was the only one left standing by her bedside. We exchanged looks, my mother and I. She with all the machines and life support, and I, 16, about to go to college. She couldn’t speak because of the tube. We communicated through writing. She reminded me to take care of my sister, and to love. She reminded me to love.

This was all strange to me. My mother, for the past weeks, never hinted at goodbye. No parting messages, no farewells, and no reminders. She received visitors and instructed us about details we would have forgotten, like tissues and towels, and our driver’s salary.

But not this morning.

I just nodded, and told her that I loved her.

We fell quiet. What words were left to say? Nothing more. There were years and days behind us. Those were enough. She was my mother.

She told me to go to the room now. I didn’t want to leave. She insisted. She said she’d be all right. I just stood there, she said she wanted to sleep. I agreed. I kissed her forehead and she briefly closed her eyes when I kissed.

Then I left.

I slept for a few hours but came back, ignoring the ICU curfew. The nurses didn’t mind me at all. There she was, asleep. I asked if she was in coma. “It seems so,” the nurse said.

It was clear now that she was. They transferred her back to her room that afternoon. Room 243. A single tear trailed from her right eye down to her temples.

This time, friends and family were there in the room. I counted around twenty souls from different places, gathered in that room, talking about the present and a few good memories. Hushed voices and quiet chuckles bounced back inside the room. Finally, my mother’s good friend and co-teacher who was massaging her palms remarked: “No pulse.”

We called the nurse. While they proceeded with their medical procedures, we moved back. My heart beat faster, people held hands, just discreet, just quiet. Some already had tears in their eyes, until the nurse said, “4:10pm”.

We shed tears for her that afternoon, June 1st, 2006, 4:10pm. Only seven days before her 37th birthday. Nothing loud nor grand, only friends and family. It merely felt as if a conversation had just ended.

So there she was, my mother. With a tear in her eye and a face that hinted a smile, she went to sleep, slipping past her friends and family into the light…painlessly.


Fritz Gerald M. Melodi finished BA Psychology with minors in Philosophy from Ateneo de Davao University.