In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “First Light.”

After she finished eating breakfast, one of the caregivers walked Jessica to my room, pulled my desk chair right next to my bed, and helped her settle into it. Jessica was smiling so brightly too, seeing me and how I was sitting in bed with photos and papers spread over me. She thought I was hard at work. I was, but not doing the kind of work she thought–not the kind of work anyone wants to do. The photos and papers were being readied for pickup to go off to the hospital where we hoped the recipient would recognize a face or two, but I knew they were all more for the family at this point. But my task at hand was of utmost importance: I was to tell Jessica that her best friend was not coming back from the hospital. I’d made subtle hints earlier in the week to see how she would react and cope. Jessica and Sally truly completed each other and with Jessica still recovering from a stroke, Sally’s absence is more profound.

As She sat in front of me, giving my hand a little kiss, she noticed the picture I had out for her to write a little something on the back. She quickly commented that she had that picture. She did. We made a copy of it for Sally to write a little note on it when Jessica was way in rehab following her stroke. It had cheered them both up mightily. So with the photo in one hand, my hand in her other hand, and two of our caregivers standing quietly behind her, torn at wanting to give us privacy and wanting to be there for me, I took a deep breath, blinked back the tears from my eyes (and my voice), and began.

“Jessica, Sally, you know your friend in that picture, the one you’ve been missing. She isn’t coming back to us.”  My words were met with a confused look. I tried again, this time my voice cracking. “She’s too sick. The Cancer, it’s too bad and she won’t ever come back here.” This time my words hit. I hated every second of it. My selfish self. In her wise ways she replied, following an exclamation of surprise, that you “never know when it going to be your turn.” And then she asked who the woman in those pictures was and I had to all but begin the whole process again. The caregivers, who had been quietly wiping away tears the whole time had to leave at this point.

I managed to get Jessica to write on the back of the picture and I had to tell her three or four more times about Sally not returning. I have to try again. To find some way for this sweet lady to connect the dots that the woman in the picture is Sally and that Sally is the friend she misses and who has the room she’ll wander over to during the day and just look at as if waiting for Sally to walk out.

I arranged for a delivery of flowers for Jessica today. She loves flowers and is such a modest country girl, I knew a florist fresh arrangement would tickle her. She was delighted and she kept telling me, and everyone else, I got them for her, but she didn’t do anything to deserve them. The world could use more Jessica’s. Although it was, it continues to be, a difficult task, I should feel privileged that Sally’s family asked me to tell Jessica. The heart is tender and I was entrusted to do my best to hold her’s safe while delivering a personal message from a family who loved her so much they needed her to know. They needed her to know while they hole vigil with Sally at the hospital.

  1 comment for “Explaining Death: Jessica, Sally Isn’t Coming Back

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