At My Stepmother's Deathbed, Twice
I search for metaphors while she lies there in a coma.
Perhaps she is a female Jesus just brought down from
the cross. We are the twelve apostles gathered together,
preparing to go out into the world and spread her Word.
She would have loved that one. Not being a poet herself,
she would not have quibbled about the specifics. Simply
the mention of her Lord's name would have been enough
to keep her happy. I picture her smiling when her eyes
suddenly open. Someone must have forgotten to tell her
the news that we had all rushed to her bedside expecting
her to die. Not for this. This is discomforting. It means
we will all have to convene one more time. Such a lack
of consideration seems unworthy of her. Her sons prop
up her head with pillows. They raise the top half
of her hospital bed. A male nurse enters to help out.
He asks her what she would like to drink as if he were
the executioner in Jacques-Louis David's painting
The Death of Socrates. She passes on the hemlock.
Instead she asks for a glass of cranberry juice. I sense
a slight twitch in the nurse's face. Is it possible he has none?
No way he would ask a dying woman to make another choice.
When he returns, he helps her to hold the small glass
in her hands. She lifts it to her lips. The tiniest possible
sip coats her tongue. She opens her mouth and says,
"Aaaahhh, that tastes so good." I am taken aback. I realize
the most alive person in this room is a terminally ill woman.
Never have a few drops of fruit juice tasted so good to her.
I call it The Cranberry Moment. In the beginning was the Word
of The Cranberry Woman. She who defies death. I am her disciple.
I dedicate myself to spreading her message for almost three months
until the day arrives when she begins to resemble another
David painting: The Death of Marat. Only this time there
will be no Cranberry Moment. Loaded up with morphine,
barely conscious of this world, she will become nothing
more than a suffering human being meeting face-
to-face with the massive indifference of the universe.
Jimmy Pappas served for the Air Force in Vietnam from 1969 to 1970 as an English language instructor. After his service, Jimmy received a Master's degree in English literature from Rivier University. He is a retired teacher whose poems have been published in many journals, including Yellowchair Review, Shot Glass Journal, Kentucky Review, Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, Off the Coast, Boston Literary Magazine, The Ghazal Page, and War, Literature and the Arts. He is now a member of the executive board of the Poetry Society of New Hampshire.
9/16/2016 10:43:07 am
What a poem. I can relate to this so much. I have been meaning to write about my own mother's death four years ago. You have inspired me- reference to that last burst of energy that certain people enjoy before the last goodbye. Thanks!
9/14/2017 12:19:09 am
Sandra, I was just speaking to my poetry critique group about how good it feels to have someone I don't know respond to one of my poems in a positive way. By an incredible coincidence, I checked out this poem of mine again and read your comment. I am honored that you were inspired by my writing. I hope you get a chance to write down some of your feelings about your mother's death in a poem some day. Feel free to share it with me if you do.
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