She is on her deathbed and all she can think of is her granddaughter.
Little Mary has always been sensitive to the world around her. Whether it be the cat having its tail caught in the cupboard or the frog jumping off the rock to the world below, she is always crying over something. Her soul, so young and pure, is perhaps the most sensitive thing she has ever seen, and for that alone she fears that when her life is finally over—when death finally eclipses her heart and allows her to go to Heaven, the Beyond or the Nothing at all—it will be Mary who will cry: not anyone else, but sweet, sweet little Mary.
At the end of her bed stands a man who watches the line on her monitor flicker bath and forth, much like a static hand frantically writing the very last words of its existence. There, it says, as the murmur in her heart continues to worsen, this is it. The beginning. The end. Whatever it is.
Harriet Almondberry feels in her chest the beginnings of what is obviously going to be the end in the form of heat rising slowly through her stomach. It begins, as she believes it always has with others, with a realization that gives her clarity she could not have ever had in the real, living world. Her eyes dilate and allow her to see the ceiling above, chipped and aging, in its pure blue color, while her nostrils flare and she takes in the smell of the room—harsh, chemical, with the aftertaste of flesh that seems to be burning. She briefly considers whether or not it is her that actually smells, as in the moment near death she is perhaps more self-conscious than she has ever been in her entire life, but it seems not to matter, as the man at the end of the bed is staring with his arms hanging slack at his sides and his lips pursed to perfection.
What is he thinking, she wonders. Does he feel for her life, her family, her friends, her hopes, dreams and possible future, or does he simply not care at all? He is, in fact, a doctor, and it is said that doctors, through experience, eventually learn to forget their feelings, to one day feel immune to even the harshest of realities. They do not feel the sting of the Mojave, she images, for the scorpions there are not barbed, and he does not feel the heights of the Everest, she knows, for his head is heightened far beyond anything of the mortal realm. That alone makes her consider the idea that this man is simply watching her because he has never seen death so close, so personal, so on the brink of existence, but she doesn’t care. To care about things like that in moments like this is to bring the end of her life down to one final moment—and, ultimately, discourage the promise of happiness in the final moments of her life.
The man is saying something at the end of the bed. She doesn’t know what it is, as death seems to have made her go deaf, but she doesn’t believe it’s necessary. His words may be the last communication she ever has with another person, yet she cannot hear them at all.
Mary—sweet, lonely, innocent, vulnerable: she always used to visit her on the Sundays in this very hospital, her mother in tow; who, as far as she was ever concerned, could have cared less about her. Lenore always used to look at her with disdain that could have only come from a child who was ready for her mother to die. She knows what her oldest daughter truly wants—knows that, regardless of her false sympathy, she has only wanted her house, her money, her vehicle, her belongings. There are many pieces of China that she has collected from around the world, yet it will not be long after her death when those things end up in pawn shops or in the vast world called ‘the Internet.’ She knows that the house will be put on the market, her assets put to stock, her vehicle displayed in the driveway with white marker scrawl that says, ‘2009, Runs Good’ on the back window, even though it should not be ‘Runs Good,’ but ‘Runs Well’ instead. These things, and more do not necessarily matter though, as in that very moment she knows that she will never see Mary again unless the legends are true, the myths are believable, the Christians are right, that Catholics were wrong, that the Presbyterians, whom used to come visit her, were sincere in their beliefs.
Maybe I’ll be an angel, she thinks, right next to God and Jesus Christ.
What is perhaps the last and final tear she ever sheds trails down her face.
Beside her, the heart monitor begins to flicker.
It is time, she thinks.
She is unable to watch the monitor for fear that she it will predict her exact moment of death before she ever actually feels it.
Mary, she thinks.
Harriet closes her eyes.
Her heart begins to slow.
One, two, three…
The last breath is drawn, the last thought is sung, and the last words are spoken beneath her breath.
The ultimatum of her existence has drawn full circle. She is the radius of life’s compass, the circumference of her past, the angle of her lifeless future, and in that moment she briefly entertains the idea that she may possibly survive as the light at the end of the tunnel begins to grow ever so near, as the vast darkness begins to turn to white and her heart begins to beat as fast as it has ever beaten before. It is her body, she knows, telling her that it is the end, that these are her final moments on this great world called Earth, and though she feels as though she can do nothing but allow Fate to take Its course, she knows that it is her time to die.
The light at the end of the tunnel grows brighter.
A figure—illuminated, with two great wings and a halo above its head—appears before her and spreads its arms.
Come to me, it says.
The heart monitor draws to a close.
The line goes flat.
Welcome to Heaven, she thinks.
There is nothing.