By: Elizabeth Niedra – Class of 2015
Triangles of white light danced quietly around the walls and floor of the otherwise dim room. Dark, soft walls, a rich, bright wood floor, well-aged furniture and pictures of young loved ones filled the room with a cool, clean warmth. In the middle of all of this, set against the big window with its sweet lace drapes, was a hospital bed. The bottom all wheels, brackets and metal bars, the top set like a cradle too big for a child, piled high with soft blankets, colorful pillows and the dancing triangles of white light. On the bed was a woman, as incongruous as her crib. Lightly wrinkled skin, softened with age, seemed inviting and warm but too exposed by her worn, sleeveless nightgown. Her nightgown was bright blue, with a faded neon Caribbean beach across the front; it must have been a hand-me-down, or souvenir from a vacation of decades-past. One arm peeked out from beneath her pale fleece blanket, revealing a tiny, ancient watch and a plastic rosary clutched in her knotted hand. She dozed lightly, the triangles of light dancing over her face. Only the crude rubber tubing of the oxygen tank, and the unnatural looseness of her cracked lips, revealed her to be anything else than a peaceful, aged child.
A group of women, bedraggled and jumpy with nerves, were sequestered in the opposite corner of the room, as if unwelcome in the serenity of the old woman’s company. Among them stood a soft-faced, heavy-set woman with a stethoscope around her neck. This woman said nothing, only shaking her head in sweet, practiced empathy. Before gathering her bag and driving off to her next patient, she firmly hugged each woman in turn, and kissed the sleeping lady on her soft, wispy head.
The only sound in the room was the gurgling, labored breathing of sleep on the edge of death. Our women, different in age but alike in their sunken eyes and un-brushed hair, reformed their bedside vigil of days, as if around an altar. Their pain was palpable, their exhaustion suddenly stifling the air. The youngest placed a carefully steadied hand on the wrinkled one, pressing it into the blue fleece blanket. She whispered, her voice strained: “Vecmama, grandma, I love you”. The sleeping woman woke and looked up at her granddaughter, a stubborn twinkle in her dull eyes. “I do…not love you too”, she croaked. As she turned her head toward the window and closed her eyes again, a happy, mischievous smile managed to cling to her slack lips.