By: Phyllis Patterson AKA PM Smith
I fight to maintain my composure, but the luminescent numbers on the machine’s face
are disconcerting. The days of waiting have taken a toll and my mind and body scream
for rest and release from the stress.
The words still rattle about in my mind. Words spoken without emotion and in
medical jargon so that I only understood about half of what the doctor said. However,
there could be no mistaking the meaning of, “Your mother has seven to ten days left.
Her organs are shutting down and we have done everything we can. We will keep her as
comfortable as possible. We suggest you get in touch with Hospice…” I heard no more as
darkness washed over me. When I regained consciousness I found myself sitting in the
recliner next to my mother’s hospital bed.
Of course, at present, this seems an eternity ago. We are now in day fourteen and Mom
is still holding on. She is only awake a few brief moments a day and she doesn’t know
who I am.
Her refusal to die as expected has caught the hospital staff off guard and they seem
baffled as to how to proceed.
The wall clock ticking is the only sound in the darkened room. I cannot believe how
long a minute is. The only machine left connected is the one showing the constantly
decreasing vital signs. I have been told that when the blood pressure drops off the screen
this will indicate she has died. I try to ignore the ominous numbers.
I open the small box, gently remove the tissue paper and lift out the small candy
dish. I lovingly caress the opalescent glass and appreciate the delicate beauty. This
type glassware was popular at the turn of the twentieth century, and has been a prized
possession for generations. My great grandmother received it as a wedding gift in 1912
and passed it on to my grandmother when she wed in 1942. My mother took possession
of the dish in 1972.
It was prominently displayed in our home and always filled with butterscotch candy.
Keeping it filled was not difficult, as no one liked butterscotch candy. Mother routinely
replaced the stale sweets just before Christmas each year. It was as much a tradition as
decorating the tree.
I am her only child, but I have not married, so the dish has not technically been
handed down to me. However, sitting here waiting for my mother’s death, I emotionally
I have been so absorbed in my thoughts that I have missed the fact that my mother is
awake and looking at me. I nearly drop the precious heirloom as I leap to my feet and
rush to her side. With shaking hands, I set it down on the side table and feel hot tears
sting my eyes.
My voice is raspy and I can only manage the word “Mother.” I do not expect a
response, but am astonished to hear her clearly say. “Where’s the candy?”
The question is barely a whisper, but I hear it and as I look into Mom’s eyes I see a
glint of recognition and she adds in halting breathlessness. “Carol, you must keep it filled
even if you don’t like butterscotch.”
My heart catches, the tears are now streaming down my face and I struggle to
say. “Of, course, Mother.”
My hands find hers and I simply let the tears flow. No other words are spoken as
within a minute—a much faster minute than before—her eyes become vacant and the
numbers on the machine blink off.