Like Birth

     "I'm scared of dying," her bottom lip quivered as she told herself the truth.

     "I know you are. I think we all are. But I think we were afraid of being born as well. We grow used to where we are, and we fight like hell to stay there. But think of what an awful world it would be if the choice were ours in our preborn days to decide when or if we would be born. When the time is right, we are squeezed through a channel of pain to a new world--a world with more heartbeats than our mother's, a world where we can grow into our own decisions, desires, and dreams. And once we've breathed the air, would we really go back to the cramped womb?" She searched her friend's face, which wore weariness, for a sign to be still or to go on. She prayed for words to help, to heal a spirit as exhausted as the body was from radiation, chemo, and pain.

     "But it is not fair. My kids still need me. My husband still needs me. I have so many plans: I want to see spring again and know if Bobby will learn to read and what Zach will become and if Sid can learn to control his temper and who will Sarah marry. It's just not fair," and she laid her head back against the pillow, exhausted from speaking of such passions, and the wrinkles in her neck relaxed.

     "I know. I know," her friend patted the fist holding the uppermost blanket. Where were the words to carry away this torture? Where was the wisdom to calm the mental fury? Surely such a struggle to live should be granted a miracle. But the miracle had run its course and worn itself out and was thinning to memory wisps of nothing. "You've given your family courage through your example and taught them to trust themselves and each other through your faith in them, and you've loved them through every hour you've been given. These gifts will never go away. Your family will carry you in their hearts until it is their time to go to the next place."

     The face relaxed into a gentle smile as the cocktail of drugs carried her ragged worries into a sleep again. Her friend watched the fist unclench and dimmed the light, waiting for the next round of pain to overcome the dreaming escape.

     Like birth, some events no one should ever do alone. So she waited to be there, just to be there.

February 1998

First Published: ELM, Tenth Anniversary Edition, Spring 2002