A View from the Bridge
Mr. Spy’s mother is dying.
It helps to say it, that thing we all know to be true.
Really, we are all dying. She’s just closer to the jumping off point. She’s the one who reminds us how it is.
I am watching from afar as Mr. Spy goes back and forth to hold her hand, each time wondering if it will be the last. Probably thinking about how many times she was the one who grabbed for his hand.
Dying is a messy business, made only more so by our inclination to prop it up in an out of the way corner with a screen about it to tidy it up. We are afraid to look at it, afraid of what might be looking back at us. And yet, as with many things, it’s less terrifying to stare than to hide your eyes.
It could be days, it could be weeks. No one knows for sure. It’s not really any different for the rest of us, which is what makes it so unsettling. We like to pretend that we’re safe, that it is different, that we are different. We don’t want to know how it’s going to be.
We are oddly comforted by the plans we make. We order plane tickets and rental cars. We research hotel rooms and bereavement fares. We review our wardrobes to make sure we have something to wear in case of a funeral. It should seem morbid, but it doesn’t. Instead, it brings dying into our home in a way we can process. It’s a practical thing, a real thing. It’s something to do.
Mr. Spy’s mother is dying from a million small things and nothing at all. Her dying is utterly ordinary except to those who stand around her, not knowing quite what to do and to those who stand around them, not knowing how to comfort them. The doctors have taken over doing what they do, which is to try to make the dying stop. But is that the best thing? No one wants to be the one to say no. And who can blame them?
The doctors are discussing things. The doctors are saying there’s nothing they can do. We should be sad, but it is more of a relief. We are released, absolved, almost. But there is still the waiting and the holding of her papery-thin hand with its transparent skin.