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“Can you give me heaven?” (A slow-motion goodbye)


For the past few weeks, it's not unusual for me to get up and check my old lady employer anytime in the night. We are alone in her house. Because of the unknown pain in her stomach which I strongly suspect is a severe peptic ulcer, she tends to moan, groan and writhe on the bed causing the blankets to be dislodged and her moans and groans are giving me sleepless nights. The weather is so cold so I have to be vigilant and has stretched my pitiful supply of patience. I would rather not leave the warm cocoon of my bed but I am scared to wake up in the morning and find her lifeless caused by the cold. Somehow, even for a short time, my old lady found a place in my heart that drives away the grouchiness and annoyance caused by disrupted sleep.

Last night, I was jolted awake by a very long painful moan around 3 AM. Dutifully, I got up and went to check on her. I asked her how is she and if she wants anything. She was incoherent at first so I went ahead and ask if she wants some water. No, she said and emit a long noisy sighed. I waited and observed as she slowly moved her head from side to side. She held out her bony hand to me which I grasped. Handholding is a new developed habit for her which I am assuming to mean as looking for comfort or courage. She wants something but can't seem to complete the sentence. She was stuck at “I want...” and emits a sigh. I tried to prompt her by asking her if she wants water or food or the heater nearer her bed but she shakes her head. After a few endless seconds or minutes, with me getting annoyed by the second, she spoke one word that drove away the cobwebs of sleepiness from my consciousness.

"...heaven”. I said “What?!”. “Can you give me heaven? I want heaven.” I was dumbstruck; I can only feel the goosebumps electrifying my body and my mind silently screaming “Oh God, not now! Not now!” while my imagination went wild especially that I did not turn on the light so it was quite dim with only the reflection of the electric heater giving light.

Thankfully sanity returned and I didn't do anything stupid. She was lucid. Her clasp on my hand was quite strong and afterwards, I think I drew strength from that instead of the other way. I quietly asked her if she can describe what is heaven to me since I don't understand. She just looked at me silently in the dim light. Seconds, minutes went by, I don't know. Somehow, I was able to tell her that there's no need to worry, everything will be alright and only God can decide the time and I don't know what else comes out of my mouth. She then assured me that she is not scared in a quavering but strong voice. So I, the scared caregiver, holds her emaciated hand and softly brushed her hair from her forehead like a baby and tell her to go back to sleep and everything's gonna be allright. I too went back to bed after a while but with eyes wide open until morning.

My employer is very old and we have been in and out of the hospital for different health complications for the past 5 months. This time, she needs an invasive procedure to determine her stomach ache but because she is old and her physical health is slowly declining, it was decided that the procedure might just make her suffer more. So here we are together alone at home with me quaking in my knees anticipating the final hour which may take days, weeks or months, who knows. Death is something which cannot be avoided but staring and anticipating death in the face in slow motion is another. Recognizing the signs of impending death, I can only quiver inside. I just hope I will not freak out instead be calm if the end will happen here at home.


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