Morning comes. The smell of fresh-brewed coffee seeps 'neath a bedroom door. The strong aroma of robust black is inhaled, masking the stench of Death that awaits. An elderly woman at the cusp of two worlds lies motionless in bed no longer wondering about the biggest con ever told. Now she knew; and it was not what she nor anyone else thought it to be. No family member long gone came to guide you into your new life; no benevolent light shone; no peace of mind and heart were to be found. Instead, Death came to visit. And it was ugly and mean. And he brought his rotting smell of carcass to stand vigil at your bedside, patiently waiting for your last gasp of breath. It waited anxiously as it tried to contain its rapacious desire of claiming you before your time; its cold, fetid breath suffocating you even more. What kind of God would allow Death to visit and mock her pain? Was there a God? She had prayed to him for strength, yet Death had come. She guessed He must’ve been busy.
For months she'd been held prisoner inside these four walls, four telling walls that could write the story of her life, walls that once bore witness to the moans of slow, rhythmic pleasures that instead now bear witness to the moans of pain that slowly leaches a life.
The door cracks ajar. A young face, ruddy with life, peeks inside, "Are you awake, Mum?"
"Yes. I smelled the coffee." She attempts to sit up even though she knows she is no longer able; atrophied, frail arms fail to hold her fragile weight. She gasps at the sharp pain that overtakes and tries to control her breathing; a tear escapes the corner of her eye.
The young woman rushes to place the cup of coffee on top of the bedside table, "Mum, please, let me help." This loving and thoughtful act of assistance, however, only serves to sadden her even more. Compassion, an act that is delicately given, leaves little room for dignity and independence. Her daughter notices her labored breathing and paler-than-usual look, skin clammy to the touch.
"I'm going to call the doctor. You don’t look well."
"Please don’t." A cadaverous, cold hand reaches out and grabs with the labor of someone whose strength has long departed. A beseeching whisper, "Please. There’s nothing else they can do. No more hospitals. Please. I don’t want to die there."
Teardrops fall onto the young woman's silk blouse, leaving rings that carry the message of disconsolate pain. She prays for strength as she watches her lifelong protector, confidante and best friend deteriorate; a woman who, not long ago, appeared healthy and vibrant with life.
The mother now senses Death closer, impatient, hungry, needing to be fed. The pestilent vigil has come to an end.
She closes her eyes, "Please, baby, I'm a little tired. Just let me rest a bit."
The young woman covers her mother with an extra blanket and kisses her cold, clammy forehead, "Let me go make you something light to eat. I’ll be back in a few, alright?" But the Mother knows exactly what she is going to do. However, it no longer matters. She gazes lovingly one last time at the reflection of her younger self; into the younger, sad eyes of a different color that carry her spirit and have cried much these past few months. She grabs her daughter’s hand and squeezes it with all her might. This is their final goodbye. She knows that when her daughter returns, she will be gone. She lets go of her daughter's hand no longer able to hold on. The young woman leaves the room.
She scans her bedroom one last time letting her eyes fall on the photographs of a loving husband long gone and a daughter that she would have made a pact with the Devil if he would have granted her more years to stay by her side. Memories and images of a loving and happy life quickly race through her mind colliding with tears of sadness; all wanting one last recognition from her, all bidding their farewell.
She closes her tear-filled eyes in final submission. Death approaches, acknowledging his victory at last. He enshrouds his due and finally claims what he has come for, finally claiming what he is owed.