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Memory of Dying
“Agnes is dying if you wanna watch,” Bryan exclaims as he sprints by me with a grin. I stand there for a moment, not exactly knowing what to do. I slowly walk down the corridor. I imagine she must be closing her eyes and gradually falling sleep. In time her last breath will escape and she will find peace. I have never witnessed someone passing before. This is my first job as an aide and at sixteen I have never encountered anyone dying. But I must go as she is my patient. I should be there to comfort her.
From outside her room I can hear the nurse ordering Agnes to breathe. “Come on Agnes, swallow it.” she commanded as I enter the room. I observe the nurse forcing the suctioning tube down Agnes’ throat. There were numerous aides standing around Agnes as she suffer in her bed. They stand there in awe as she lay there gasping for each breath. I ignorantly ask what happened. The girl next to me whispers that Agnes was eating her lunch, a feast of pureed turkey, and began choking.
My body freezes like a deer in front of an oncoming car. Blindly staring and too scared to move. I am awoken from my daze by a shrilling inhale. I am horrified as her once gentle demeanor is transformed into a being I am frightened of. Her eyes are bulging, watering. The moisture turns to tears as her face becomes ashen. And as quickly as her bout started, it ended. Agnes now lay in her bed, silent. Blue encompasses her face. She looks empty. I feel empty. The tears that fall from my face burn with questions of uncertainty. I am lost. “Well, that is that.” states the nurse as she walks away. “Clean her up,” she says matter of fact, “the funeral home will be coming.”
I hear the others laughing as they exit into the hallway. “Did you see her face, it was like a horror movie,“ I hear one of them say. “She put up a heck of a fight,“ another one states. They just go about their business as if it’s a regular day. I cannot deny my anger as I listen. She is still a person, I think to myself. Not someone to be laughed about or forgotten so quickly. My ignorance allows me to think she can hear them too. I foolishly tell Agnes not to listen to them, they are immature. They have no feelings. No respect. I tell her it’ll be okay now, not knowing if that is a lie.
I stand there for quite sometime. I am far too frightened and weary to approach her bedside. I cannot stop shaking. My heart aches as I am left alone in the room with her. I try to remind myself that this is in fact Agnes. Not a monster. Not something to fear. Just the same sweet person I cared for this morning.
I sit down on the bed next to her. I reluctantly reach out for her hand. In my youth I think she will be warm, that she may respond.
The tears are uncontrollable. I find myself sobbing for the loss of a lady I barely know. A woman I met just three days earlier while orientated to her wing. As I lay her hand in mine I feel a deep sense of peace. I am reminded of the welcoming smile she graced me with just a few hours earlier. Instead of me telling her it’ll be okay I feel it will be okay. For her.
My heart no longer aches, my tears no longer fall.
Agnes has found peace.
And so have I.