Last week, I visited my great aunt in hospital. She wasn’t doing well. She wasn’t doing well at all. She wasn’t doing anything but sleeping. Yet I hoped, as I bent down over her, that she felt my lips touch her forehead to kiss her, willing that my simple act of affection for her could steal some of my health and be absorbed through her skin to make her better. I touched her crepe paper skin, loose on her skeleton, now easily seen because she had no fat between her skin and bones. I rubbed her arm gently, careful not to cause her pain or bruise her as she bruised easily. She tried, tried so hard, to open her eyes. They fluttered with what seemed tremendous effort. I had visited her only days before that, and she was her usual alert, spry, wisecracking self. She was vital. So it was a surprise to see her take this downward spiral.
As I stood up to talk to others in the room, I casually combed my fingers through her thick, silvery grey hair, wavy and curly. It reminded me of one of the more recent times that I brushed her hair for her. She said it felt so good, so soothing, when I brushed her hair like that. As my fingers repeatedly moved methodically from the top of her forehead and slid up and back into her hair caressing her scalp, she seemed to make a facial expression that told me she still loved it even if she couldn’t form those same words anymore to tell me.
Aging is odd, scary, exciting at times. Our bodies, whether we’ve abused or worshiped them, can betray us in an instant. Sometimes, the betrayal is long and slow.
I want someone there to comfort me should that ever happen to me. I want someone to hold my hand, to talk to me, to know that I’m loved, that I’ve been loved, and will continue to be loved even beyond this world. In the end, I want to know that I mattered, at least to one other person, someone who cares for me and loves me so much, that they are there holding my hand and comforting me.
One thing I’ve noticed about people when they are living with death: they tend to all look similar. They develop a skin-and-bones physical image. They may have crepe paper skin with bruises of varying colors dotting their arms and legs. Their skin takes on a similar pallor. Their eyes might be closed for most of the time. But their heart, their soul are still the same.
They hear you.
She heard me.
When I told her I loved her very much.
And whatever is out there after our physical life on this planet, I hope she’s there, in peace, and happier, and healthier. I hope she’s laughing, dancing, and feeling free.