I prayed

I prayed

A Story by Just Nikki



     Someone once told me, red roses were for love and yellow roses were for friendship. So, I brought her flowers, red and yellow roses. She loved flowers. She used to have huge flower gardens around Oak trees and other random places on the old country homestead. Now those flowers seemed to have reincarnated themselves from the soil to vases inside the house. Tall ones, short ones all filled with different blooms sent by friends and family as tokens of sympathy. It had to be sympathy because she was terminal; she wasn’t going to get well. They weren’t “get well” flowers… they were “may you pass in peace” flowers.

     I walked in the backdoor of the house I grew up in holding the hand of my two year old, guiding her into the kitchen and eventually into the arms of my Aunt K. All the children, my aunts and uncles, were there. We had all been there for the past two weeks because we knew it was time; time to carry the load because the wagon was loosing a wheel. Hospice had been there for the past month coming to the house about twice a week and the doctor visited every Friday. They always commented on how helpful their patient’s family was. Of course, we were, she was the backbone, the rock and now slowly becoming a memory.

     Aunt K grabbed my eyes with her own, warning me before her words had a chance to do so.

     “Be prepared,” she sighed.

     “I’m fine,” I looked down.

     Of course I’m not fine. But you’ve been warning me everyday and it just never sinks in. I’ve watched a woman fight to prolong her life for four years and I just can’t accept the fact that today just may be the end.

     “She’s not able to speak anymore, but she can hear you. Hearing is the last to go.” Aunt K further warned me, yet tried to sound reassuring. Aunt K had been a nurse for years although, I never did understand why she wasn’t practicing anymore.

     Not speaking? But just yesterday we carried on a full conversation. What do you mean not speaking?

     I didn’t take time to hug everyone nor speak to anyone else there like I usually did for fear that I wouldn’t make it to her room in time. I forgot my child in the kitchen with my aunt yet, held tight to the flowers and almost flew through the living room, down the hall, past my old bedroom and slowed as I neared the half open door. I slowly pushed it forward and stepped in as if sneaking in. The room was dimly lit but not dark enough for me not to notice that someone had hung an angel from the bed post above her head. It had previously been lying on the dresser and I was sure someone from church had sent it to her.

     I saw her lying there, motionless, facing the adjacent wall. She did not turn her head towards the door to see who was coming in to visit as she normally did.

     Normally? What’s normal about someone dying in their own bed? Chained to a terminal fate, awaiting it’s arrival.

     She simply looked asleep; all tucked in for a good night’s sleep as she use to do to me. Since the covers were pulled up to her shoulders, I couldn’t see her cancer eaten body although I knew it was there. I knew all sixty-five pounds of it was buried under those quilts.

     Please don’t be gone already, I can’t be the one to find you here without a breath.

     “I brought you flowers,” I tried to say without tearing up although, I failed miserably. My ears failed me too, what Aunt K had said filled one ear and fell out the other. I was not prepared. She was prepared though. She had asked the nurse when she last visited how she “would know when it was time for her to go.”

     The nurse said, “You’ll know when you’re ready.”

     Two days prior to bringing her flowers, she pulled every child, every grandchild and great grandchild in one by one to give out her last instructions along with her last good byes. Nevertheless, she had a trick up her sleeve and hung on for my twenty-third birthday which was the following day. She sung “Happy Birthday” to me louder than I’ve ever heard her sing; louder than any church hymn! She even waited for one of her grandchildren who arrived the next morning to say goodbye.

     She was ready to let go though; she was tired of fighting. She had already been through the stages of dying and now was simply waiting for her heart to quit beating. At least that’s how she had put it to her husband.

     I set the flowers on the cedar chest and knelt down by her bed. I kissed her forehead and she was still warm. I couldn’t hold it in any longer and held her hand as I wept a little more than quietly. I bowed my head as if I was praying although, I was not; I should have been. She had told me in her last instructions that I should go to church.

     “This can’t be it, please wake up, I brought you flowers and I wish you could see them,” I begged like a child. Aunt K was right, she was not speaking; in fact, she was completely non-responsive. She didn’t twitch when I touched her, nor did she whimper in pain, she kept still almost drifting away before my eyes. I couldn’t catch her.

     Here I am being completely selfish, wishing her to not be gone, to suffer more and Lord knows she’s suffered enough. How could I be so selfish?

     “Aunt K says that you can still hear. So I guess I could just describe them to you,” I settled. “I brought you roses, six are red because I love you and six are yellow because you’re my best friend.”

I could barely get the whole sentence out. For the past two weeks I had been so brave. I only teared up a little in her presence so that I could cry behind her back. I helped take care of her every day for the last two weeks. I bathed, fed, dressed, wiped, moved, adjusted, entertained, soothed; anything I could. It was almost like old times, except reversed. I returned the favor she bestowed upon my childhood; I gave back.

     “I’m glad that I read you the poem that you asked me to write for you when I did because I’m not so sure if your hearing me now,” I tried to make her laugh. “I’m going to bury it with you, you know.”

     Because I wrote it for you because you asked me to and I never want to read it again.

     I felt comfortable about talking about burying her now since I knew that the end was hours away. Previously, I never mentioned it because she always made comments as if she was “just going through a rough period” and that “all she needed was to get her strength back” and she’d “be fine”. Of course, I encouraged her; she would have if the tables were turned.

     “Aunt Sis mentioned that since I’ve done your hair so many times and your make-up a few times that I should do it for you after you pass. We don’t want someone else to make you look like you belong in Vegas,” I attempted to make her laugh again. She and I laughed together so many times, I just felt like pretending that she’d laugh any moment. “But I promise, I will make sure you look like you, just the way you like it.”

     My mother and my maternal grandmother had done my great grandmother’s hair and make-up after death when I was eight years old. I asked my mother if I should and she said “you’ll regret it if you don’t.”

     How the hell am I gonna do a dead person’s hair and make-up?

     “I sure wish you could see the flowers I brought, Kara wanted to hold them the whole ride over here. I kept telling her they were for you.” I changed the subject.

You would have said to just give her one. In fact, you would have gotten on to me for not giving her one.

     I didn’t cry as much at this point and decided I had better let her rest if she was in fact listening to me ramble. Actually, I wanted just be buried with her and never leave her side.

     “I love you and I miss you already friend,” I whispered in her ear and kissed her forehead once more. I turned her favorite gospels on low volume from the radio sitting on the dresser and left the bedroom.

     I knew it was hours. I felt it. I was tempted to stay over night but, I had to get Kara home. If she did pass, Kara didn’t need to experience that. I was already having a hard time explaining what was happening.

     Where is the instruction manual on how to explain to a two year old that someone is dying? Or what a grave is? Or what death means? And why?

     I drove Kara home and slept on the couch; I knew the phone would ring. At 3:23 AM, my Uncle called to inform me that she had passed fifteen minutes prior. He illustrated the perfect scene of her husband holding her hand and saying a prayer when she took her last and final breath.

     “That’s how she would have wanted it. We couldn’t have planned it more perfect,” I cried. “I’ll be there within the hour.”

     I didn’t waste any time getting over to see her before the Hospice nurse came to pronounce her dead. I witnessed her last exit from the house she raised me in and her last descend down those steps on a stretcher. She did not look like herself. Then again, she had not looked her like herself in so long.

     Had you not been family, I could have never looked at your corpse so longingly.

     The next morning, as promised, I delivered her clothes to the funeral home along with all the utensils to do her justice. Although, I was willing to go through with what I thought might end up being a traumatic experience, my maternal grandmother had accompanied me for moral support. Before we entered the building, we said a prayer together.

     “Dear God, please give me the strength to overcome my sense of loss and watch over me as I honor her in death. In Jesus’ name, Amen,” I prayed.

     I prayed, you would have been proud.

     As I curled her hair and powdered her nose, I talked to her just like I had before when she was alive. Oddly enough, I had a sense of peace in a room I was alien to. I had the funeral director place her in her casket so I could do all the finishing touches. Every hair had to be in the right spot as well as every fold of her lavender dress. She looked like an angel; completely and finally at peace. She had not looked that good in months; she didn’t even look like cancer had ravished her body and stolen her life.

     It didn’t come no finer than you and I made sure your dignity remained in tact.

     The following day, my Granny exited the funeral services held at the church to the sounds of bagpipes ushering a familiar hymn.

          “Amazing Grace, How sweet the sound.

          That saved a wretch like me.

          I once was lost

          But, now I am found.

          Was blind

          But, now I see.”

     Her oak casket was majestically carried down the aisle and placed into the back of a white hearse. I waved her on as she left that church for the last time to be buried underneath those quilts of dirt, all tucked in for a forever night’s sleep. Later, I knelt beside the freshly unearthed ground, placed six red roses and six yellow roses upon her grave and prayed.
















© 2008 Just Nikki

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The story carries peace solace loved it

Posted 15 Years Ago

there are times when anything said - would border on useless. this is one of those times. Reading something so close to your heart, and your soul - the fact that you are able to share it, with grace, with eloquence and even in the very real conveyence of someone's death...you give such lift...your words flow with integrity...they breath light and life...and while I am bawling like a baby - I can feel peace coming from the page.
Yesterday my son's ex girlfriend said goodbye to her dad, only eight months after her brother was murdered. She showed no emotion at either funeral...not a single tear...nothing. Grief is never what we wish on someone - but like someone else said...you showed your love in this one.

Posted 15 Years Ago

All I can say is "oh, my". I've been through those last days. I was with my mother-in-law when she passed. There are no words to describe those moments. The peace that filled the room . . . You've written this beautifully.

Posted 15 Years Ago

The story carries your depth of Heart and your insightful mind. Well written with descriptors that depth the humanity and pathos flowing throughout. The voice was strong and resonates the courage of a loving Heart. This is someone the reader would want a friend!

Posted 15 Years Ago

This piece is so meaningful to me. Today my daughters' Grandmother (their fathers side), passed away. they are teenagers, but it hit them so hard. My middle daughter took it particularly badly.
I am so impressed with how you write about this deeply personal experience with out rambling. I always notice this in a piece because sometimes deep emotions cause people to write in a faster way, skipping over important details that the reader needs in order to empathize. Your writing here is tight and descriptive.

Thank you for sharing this very personal and painful time with us.


Posted 15 Years Ago

Nikki, this is an amazing recounting of the passing of a loved one. Your sensitivity and immediacy to the situation was evident throughout. All those little details made all of it so familiar, especially to those of us who have had a family member go like this. Excellent piece.

Posted 15 Years Ago

It's been a while since a writing brought my tears and this one did. Simply wonderful, very emotional, sharing the thoughts and heartache throughout and I was able to put myself in your shoes (have lost all of my grandparents now). Sometimes you feel selfish but your thoughts are normal in this situation. I hope it helped a little to write about it. I'm working on my will and will ask that a picture of my daughter be buried with me when I pass (which hopefully won't be for a very long time!). A personal poem would be very touching to take to the grave...

Sometimes I don't even understand death so yes, it is so very hard to explain to children.

Wonderful write.

Posted 15 Years Ago

I have to tell you how very touched i am right now. This is one of the most beautiful love stories I've ever read.

Your a beautiful person to let us share this most important part of your life. I was immediately reminded of my own grandmother, my true life hero. I loved her with all my heart. Her passing was almost more than I could bear, I so admire your strength. So lovely not despite your pain, but because of it.

Bless you and yours and thank you so very much for sharing this.

Posted 15 Years Ago

This was such an emotional piece of writing. I could feel the myself tearing up which does not happen that often. I could feel the power of a pure heart being here among these words. You capture so many emotions in one piece. It was purely breathtaking to read this. Going through the different stages with you. I think you have written a piece that i will sending out to others to read. I am so honored to have gotten the chance to partake of this. You have do this piece such a great justice and I am for one am so moved by your words.

Posted 15 Years Ago

wow this is so emotional and yet so beautifully written. I think a lot of people have been through a situation similar to this at some point in their lives when they lose a loved one. We tend to want to be selfish and keep them for ourselves even when we know what's best for them is to move on to a better place. Thinking back to my own grandfather passing, this story brought me to tears on several occasions as I could relate to the things that were happening. You have written such a beautiful piece here and one obviously directly from the heart. Wonderful read.

Posted 15 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

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10 Reviews
Added on February 22, 2008
Last Updated on February 22, 2008


Just Nikki
Just Nikki

Gulf Shores, AL

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