This was challenge 31 in May. Crow wrote about the moment he knew he wanted to be a writer and Bambi chose three memories involving spending valuable time with friends and family. It was interesting to see how different people have different priorities when it comes to memories they treasure the most.
My memory only happened a few months back, but I don't think I'll ever forget it.
There are six beds in the ward, and that bothers me immensely. I’ve been in hospital before, I’ve been weak before. I know the indignity of it all, the frustration, and who wants to be looked upon by five other patients while going through that? There are curtains which never quite seem to cover all the gaps. I know how they feel.
It must be worse when you’re dying; and I know she is dying. They’ve said as much without saying as much. The phrase in vogue is “doesn’t have long left.”
I feel like they could be doing more, but she is old so they don’t care. I feel like I should be doing something, but she is old so I don't know. She looks frail and I am afraid to touch her; she looks confused and I am afraid to look at her.
I look instead at the woman in the next section, though I know I shouldn’t. She sits up in a chair, looking a lot better than my loved one. Her daughter, I think, and granddaughter, chat to her. They wipe surreptitious tears of their own—maybe not so much better, then. Presently an old lady wanders in and they greet her, Sister. My ear pricks up. She is a sister of St. Louis, something I have a connection with. That is what sparks my interest but it is the nun who keeps it. Her whole attitude.
“The doctor was handsome was he? It’s a good thing I wasn't here, so!”
She looks at the patient’s pills and comments, “Those ones are nice, I had those with my breakfast. Will you have them now? Alright, in a little while then. Good woman yourself.”
It strikes me how sick and old the nun herself is, but it’s as if she knows there are far more important things to be getting on with. The thought of how strong she is, how weak I am being, makes my eyes prickle. I throw a quick glance at my loved one. What if she opens her eyes, as she struggles to do on occasion, and catches me crying? Then she will know how bad things are.
“You’re being transferred to a new place? Grand, that’ll give me a chance to visit. How about those tablets now? No, whenever you’re ready. Good woman. That’s the way.”
I wish I could be as strong as her. She casts her eyes over my face, no more than a swift glimpse, but I feel like I’ve been saved on some kind of database.
After a while, Sister decides that she’d better be going. By this time, I don’t really notice her words as I’m in full-blown tear mode, great salty shuddering sobs stifled in the wool of dad’s jumper.
Sister stands, kisses her friend, hugs the daughter, hugs the granddaughter and asks a quiet question about the lady in the bed near the window. Comes over. Looks only at me. “But you love her, don’t you? And that’s why you’re upset. And that’s OK.”
She takes my hand in hers and I feel something pull up my arm and into my stomach. If anything, it makes me cry even more.
“Hail Mary, full of grace, the lord is with thee...”
I join in, speaking the words automatically but hushed, in case my voice should waver and break the
spell. But it doesn’t. For some reason, it doesn’t break while her hand is on mine.
“...and blessed is the fruit of thy womb Jesus...”
I look down at her hand and commit it to memory. She asks me my name and I know she will tell it to God in her prayers tonight. I also know that she will be with me forever, one way or another. I know that anything difficult will weigh a stone less because she held my hand in hers.
I wish I’d asked her name.