One of her daughters had sounded the drumbeat earlier in the week, calling for a gathering of the tribe. The message was vague, yet abundantly clear in its meaning. Her time was short and now was the time to make a final connection, to reassure her that all she was, all she had been and done, mattered. And would continue to matter.
As I walked into her room at the nursing home, the final credits of a travel show scrolled down the TV screen. Aunt Doris sat on the edge of the bed, her head nestled in her arms on a hospital tray. I gently touched her hand and tried to awaken her, but she didn’t respond. I turned down the volume on the TV and settled into a chair. I thought I’d wait awhile and let her wake up on her own.
Meanwhile a woman poked her head in door and said she was from a local church. She was with a group of parishioners distributing Salvation Army blankets. I picked out a blue one. I don’t know why. Aunt Doris once said something about liking that color. Sky blue, it might have been. I tossed the blanket onto the table in front of the TV set and sat back down.
After about 15 minutes, a nurse came in to check on her. She awakened Aunt Doris, helped her up onto the bed and told her she had a visitor. It was hard to tell whether she comprehended what the nurse was saying. I went around the other side of the bed and sat down.
After the nurse left the room, Aunt Doris opened her eyes.
“Irvin,” she said.
Her eyes closed and she seemed to slip back into unconsciousness. She came in and out. It was clear that she was struggling — laboring to breathe, to talk, to grasp at fleeting moments of consciousness.
I took her hand and put my ear close to her face.
“I’m tired of this,” she said.
I leaned forward and gently kissed her forehead.
“Then rest,” I said, speaking not just for myself.