When the R.N. at the nursing home told me Mother might die any day, I hit the Emily Dickinson hard, even keeping a collection of her poetry open on the kitchen counter for easy access. Through that cold winter I stood there making coffee, reading the familiar words about Death—

After great pain a formal feeling comes—
The Nerves sit ceremonious, like Tombs—

Poem by poem, I marked the days. At Pine Haven, Mother lay in her narrow little bed, unresponsive, unable to move unless a staff member moved her, a figure draped—as forgotten furniture is—with a sheet. Kidney failure was the diagnosis. A “quartz Contentment, like stone,” the inevitable prognosis.

Months went by. The R.N. kept saying, “Any day, any day.” Spring blossomed forth—and then here came summer. Mother’s hair was a scrubby tangle, befitting someone whose head never left the pillow, and I coaxed a soft brush through her silver strands. She did not stir. The R.N.’s mantra remained unchanged.

I was okay with the word “any.”

Just what did she mean by “day”?

[Continued in Confrontation 114]

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