My mother-in-law is dying. I know I've said that before. But this time, it's for real.
Here's what it's like, right now...
For twenty minutes every day, you stab little watermelon chunks with a fork, swirl them in the juice at the bottom of the bowl, and wait for her to open her mouth, the sign that she is ready for the next piece. The rest of your day is go, go, go, but during this time, you stop. You are present. You stare at the lines in her face, the colors of the blankets, the shape of her body under the covers. You try to memorize it all: every color, every curve, every sound.
How ignorant I was then! How could I possibly have thought that artichokes and strawberries somehow constituted some sort of "Last Supper"?! People who are dying don't eat artichokes and strawberries! People who are dying eat...watermelon.
People who are dying say things like, "a loaf of bread and a jug of wine", and expect you to know what they're talking about. Last Supper, indeed! The only thing your small mind can conjure up is Jesus, until she gives you another clue. You have to ask for it three times, until you finally make out her whisper: "The Rubaiyat...... Omar Khayyam".
And then you mention that you wished you had your computer, because you'd look it up. The dying person knows what he/she wants, and tells you to look it up on your phone. She may be 86 years old, but she knows that you can find anything you want on a phone!
Thank goodness the caregiver has a smart phone, even if you don't.
And so you begin to read (I highly suggest you read this aloud. Just do it. Please):
Wake! For the Sun, who scatter'd into flight
The Stars before him from the Field of Night,
Drives Night along with them from Heav'n, and strikes
The Sultan's Turret with a Shaft of Light.
You scroll down to see that there are "CI" verses. So you go to the middle, somewhere at random, and read aloud some more, filling the room with rhythm and rhyme:
And we, that now make merry in the Room
They left, and Summer dresses in new bloom
Ourselves must we beneath the Couch of Earth
Descend--ourselves to make a Couch--for whom?
Ah, make the most of what we yet may spend,
Before we too into the Dust descend;
Dust into Dust, and under Dust to lie
Sans Wine, sans Song, sans Singer, and--sans End!
You succeed in barely not choking up and crying.
And then, in the scrolling, you see it. And of course you read it. Aloud.
A Book of Verses underneath the Bough,
A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread--and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness--
Wilderness were Paradise enow!
We're getting close, friends. This person is gone.