BY HANNAH BUTLER
Tick tock, tick tock. One minute goes by, next thing I know twenty minutes have passed. Twenty minutes sitting, just waiting for her chest to rise and fall one last time. I can remember sitting next to her bedside for four hours while she spoke her last words, inhaled her last breaths and remembered her 90 years on earth.
Four short hours I sat, watched and listened as a woman died. I knew her name and the soft words she spoke within four hours, but that was all. All I knew was I would not let her die alone. I was there working as a nurse’s aide but I came to learn the four hours would go far beyond simply a job. I sat and listened as the clock simply chimed tick tock, tick tock.
The clock surely never lets a person forget how fast time goes. At first the old woman quietly murmured to me how fast time has gone, how even her own body reminds her she will run out of time. I looked at the woman’s body and could not help but see how time has stolen her of her physical self. Her frame looks frail and thin. She has lines showing a map of her life on her face and hands and veins have become the main focus, turning her once tan self into a blue bruised tint. I look closer at her body as she tells me how her body once was.
“Back in the day my breast laid perfectly. I can remember men looking just a little bit longer than they should, I never did mind though every girl likes attention. Now my breasts are almost non-existent. After having one removed because of the cancer the other just hangs there, already making me look dead.”
Tick tock, tick tock, the sound is piercing to my ears. The old woman started to fall asleep, I knew her breath would be slowing soon and I knew I would be the last person to see her alive. I started to think about when I will die, would I be alone? Will I sit next to a complete stranger holding my hand? Will my family know? All of those questions intertwined in my mind and tears started to flow from my eyes. Tick tock, tick tock, two hours have passed.
She never awoke after that one short conversation, she slept with her eyes gently closed, and her hands on her chest and a glow that circled around her that I have no explanation to what it was. While she slept I sat there, my hand in her hand, fingers latched together holding on, holding on to the last part of earth she could. I looked at her and started to imagine her life, and what she would say to me if she could speak.
I imagined her telling me advice about love, money and life. I pictured her life as a beautiful thing, a handsome husband, 2.5 kids and yellow house with a white picket fence. As I sat and looked at her my mind started creating memories of her life. I saw her wedding day. 50 guest, close family and friends all gathered together to share a once in a lifetime moment. The bride dressed in a lace gown with white pearls as she slowly walks to her best friend and love of her life. Simple biblical vows are spoken as tears fall from both the bride and the groom. I then picture the birth of her healthy baby girl, who I imagined would be named Elizabeth. A 16-hour labor went fast and strong, as the baby with light brown eyes and chocolate brown hair was introduced into the world. I saw her life as good and wholesome, she went on to have another baby and filled her children’s life with amazing memories and lots of love. The problem was those memories were memories I made up, they never actually occurred. Tick Tock, Tick Tock.
I start to doze off and am awaken by a tall gray-haired man wearing priest garments. He touches my shoulder and smiles as if to say I was doing a good job, as if to say God would be proud, at least that’s is what I hoped he meant. He went close to the bed of the dying woman and started to say a prayer. He told her that she would not be alone, that God is with her. He quietly told her it was time to ask for forgiveness for her sins and thank him for her time on earth. As he spoke his prayer I looked at the women, does she hear him? Is she praying to God? I wondered if God would hold it against her that she could not speak, would she be condemned for not saying the last prayer? I sat with questions spinning in my head; God would not punish her right?
Tick Tock, Tick Tock
The priest ended his prayer and left before I could even ask him my important questions. He left the room starring at the watch on his wrist, never knowing the dying women, her story or even knowing her name.
Tick Tock, Tick Tock, I knew the end was coming; I could feel it in the air. This woman was about to die and I, a complete stranger, was the only person she had to say goodbye to.
How could this be? Where was her family? Why was there no one in the world who would want to say goodbye? Comfort her; tell her that it would be okay. Would no one miss her? This woman was living her last few minutes on earth alone. With no familiar face, no familiar sounds or smells.
Tick Tock, Tick Tock
As the clock ticked by I stared at her, her breath was now slowing, her skin was now completely clammy and the color began to disappear from the skin. I was angry, angry that I seemed to be the only one who even cared, angry that I could do nothing to save her but hold her hand, hum to her and tell her I was there, hoping and praying she could hear me and praying she was not in any pain.
Tick Tock, Tick Tock. As the clock ran a new hour I felt an odd sensation in my hand. The woman was squeezing, holding on tighter. Maybe to say thank you, maybe to tell me she knew I was there. Then just like the movement of the clock, she was gone. She had taken her last shallow breath. I just sat there, my mind full of so many emotions it felt like I was going to pass out. The nurse came in, checked her vitals, cleaned the old woman’s body and took her away. Just like that, she was gone from this earth, taken from me.
Tick Tock, Tick Tock.