How to Say Goodbye in Front of 14 Strangers
By Jessica Mesman
“They don’t know the half of it,” I assure her, and we both laugh.
I want to comfort her. I’m okay. This death scene seems like a formality. I know from melodramas, from soap operas and serial adolescent fictions and after-school specials, that I will regret not saying goodbye. But how do you script the last moments you will share on this planet in this lifetime with this woman you couldn’t imagine living without, the same way you can’t fathom eternity, or infinity, or nuclear holocaust?
to give me panic attacks just thinking about it, and yet I learned so
quickly, in less than a year, how to get along just fine without even
saying hello when I walked in the door as she sat there rocking away
in that La-Z-Boy rocking chair they bought her to cushion her pointy
bones, rocking with a hose in her nose.
“Come on,” he says.
“In a minute,” I say.
the phone from my hand and hangs it up. He looks at me as if I were
a foreign exchange student who had mysteriously appeared at his breakfast
table that morning.
“She can still hear you,” someone whispered in my ear, and I realized there were other people in the room, people we barely knew, people chanting incantations as her life signs faded. It reminded me of Rosemary’s Baby, a movie we had watched together late one night, and I thought, what if they’re right? What if she really can hear this? It’s probably scaring the shit out of her.
My sister picked up a book from the bedside table and threw it against the wall. Finally! I thought. Someone’s going to do this right. But then she just sank into the chair behind her and stared, her face a blank.
“Isn’t anyone going to do anything?”
My dad was silent. He rubbed Jennifer’s back a little too rough, like he always does. He was not the one we called to when we were sick.
Or did he officiate, feeding us lines like a priest before a bride and groom?
“Say we love you,” he prompted.
“We love you.”
“Say we’re here.”
Jessica Mesman lives and writes in Indiana.
photo by Dinty W. Moore