Lois Hjelmstad

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Compassion and courage for the times you need it.

How does one face death? How do you say goodbye to everything? My mother seemed to know.

Did I Miss Something?

As she lowered herself
onto the edge of the hospice bed
that last time and slowly
swung her legs around,
did she understand
that she was claiming
her deathbed?

Surely she could not have guessed
the indignities that awaited her there

Surely she could not have fathomed
how her body would betray her there

Surely she could not have known
that in the wee hours one morning
two respectful men
in ill-fitting black suits
would spin her into a cocoon of white sheet
and carry her out into the dark

Surely she could not have dreamed
how long it would take—
that snowfall would turn to rain
that Lent would come and go
that crocus would give way to primrose

It was simply a matter of lying there
between the delicate peach sheets
in her pale lavender gown
her white hair fanned across the pillow—
with no mobility, no autonomy, no hope

It was simply a matter of
slowly, slowly saying good-bye
to everyone
to everything
to everywhere

Yet sometimes she smiled
yet somehow she smiled

Maybe she knew something
I don’t know. . .

(Excerpted from The Last Violet: Mourning My Mother, Moving Beyond Regret, copyright 2002 Lois Tschetter Hjelmstad)

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