I am dying.
That in itself is no news. We’re all dying.
My assistant headmistress once said that everyday we live, we die. It’s true. We’re all dying, slowly fading away into the dust from which we came, souls drifting upwards, or downwards, or nowhere at all depending on what you believe.
Except I’m not fading slowly; in fact, my mother said I’m disappearing right before her eyes. But don’t tell her I said that. I wasn’t supposed to hear it, I’m supposed to be in a coma or something; hopped up on so much morphine I can’t feel a thing, they said. It’ll help me cope with the pain, they said. At least that’s what they told my parents. It was the first time I’ve heard them agree on something in years.
They lied though.
It doesn’t really help. The pain is still there, lingering, attacking in weak moments, killing my resolve to die with some manner of dignity, although I believe that ship sailed when I wet myself that one time. You’d think that with such constancy that somehow I’d grow used to it. That the pain would become familiar, an old friend, and I’d just forget it was there.
No such luck.
It still manages to surprise me now and then, catch me off guard.
It’s a bitch.
So I lie here, waiting, listening. I’m sorry if I’m sounding a little dreary, but when all that seems to define your life is this one thing there really isn’t anything else to talk about. And believe me, it’s no picnic. Just be thankful I’m not spinning off into a long tale of the history of my illness. I used to be far more interesting than this, so much more, you know. You probably would have liked me. I was friendly, pretty outgoing. People said I had a good sense of humor and I rarely got angry. In those days, before I became Mary (yes, MARY) the sick girl, I was Mary the sports girl, Mary the actor, Mary the life of the party. Now I’m soon to be Mary the dead girl.
I wouldn’t mind so much if it wasn’t so dreadfully boring. In the beginning, when I was fully conscious, most of the time I had visitors. My friends would come around and tell me stories, and we’d gossip about all the latest happenings in school, in the neighborhood, in church. They’d exaggerate and downright lie to create the most unbelievable stories, till we were all screaming with laughter and one of the nurses threatened to kick them out. We’d talk about everything except the reason why I was in the hospital, and underneath the smiles, I could see the worry and sadness etched in their eyes. But how we laughed.
And when they left and my parents were out trying to find some way to keep me breathing the nurses would sometimes keep me company too. But not now. Now I was at endgame. The clock was ticking fast, my friends had gone to school and nobody wanted to talk to someone who seemed too far gone to notice or care. I’m not, I wanted to scream. I’m still in here. I can hear you; I want to tell the doctor who tells my heartbroken parents that it’s almost time. Don’t write me off, I want to tell my dad, who can’t bear to look at me anymore. Stop crying, I want to tell my mother. Talk to me. Tell me what’s going on in the world.
How is my friends’ WASSCE going?
How’s William and Kate’s baby doing?
Anything so I don’t have to think about this all the freaking time. But they can’t, because right now all they can think about is this too.
I feel myself drifting away faster now, but slower all at once. I’ve long since been unable to tell what day is it, and now days and nights mingle into one big stream of life. Minutes, which should be more precious now, pass unnoticed as I continue to exist in some realm of my subconscious I previously didn’t know existed. I can’t see them so clearly now, they’ve become nothing but globs so shadow, standing over me. The doctor says something I can’t make out. I know it’s him because he’s the only one who talks around me; as if my parents are afraid their words will be like magic to make me disappear.
I wish they’d had more children, someone to focus all their attention on when I’m gone, but there’s just me, and they’re already on the brink of divorce.
Too late now.
And then I start to cry. I shock myself in this, as I feel, barely, the tears slide the side of my face onto my pillow. It’s been ages since I’ve been able to show any outward signs of life. I’m proud of this until I realize what it was; my final stand, my last goodbye. And then I know what the doctor said, “Any minute now.” I’m scared. I know I’m not supposed to be, that by now I’m supposed to have made my peace with this but I’m way past what should be and trying to get used to what is. And all I can think about is all the things I’ll never do.
It’s not my life, but the sum total of all the potential futures I could have had.
And so I cry.
I cry for my mother and my father, who are losing their only child, but only a little.
I cry for myself most of all.
For the husband I never met, the children I’ll never have, the life I’ll never live.
I cry for the future, full of pain, and joy, success and failure, that I won’t know, still only a little.
I cry most of all though, for something that didn’t make me sad at all.
I cry from the beauty.
That tiny, bright light I saw beyond them, beyond my crying parents and somber doctor.
I make as if to move towards it, ad I find myself weighted down. I look back to see what it is. It’s everything. The future I never had, the past I didn’t want to let go of, the people I wanted to hold on to, all muddled up, mushed up together, dark and swirling.
Then I looked back at the light. It was a far better option. So I let it go. I bundled them all up and let them go. I took it all; the babies I never held, the man I never knew, the friends I would never again see, the parents who wouldn’t see me grow up.
I bundled them up, and let them go, repeatedly, in a sort of slow rhythm, casting them back into the sea of life from which they came, those great dreams. I watched them float away from me, until they seemed like someone else’s life, scenes from a movie.
And I walked on, free, unencumbered. I took a last look at my parents to say goodbye but they seemed so far away. And I walked off, into the lights, into the beauty.
I was free.
I was home.