Gift of a Lifetime

at 12:35 AM

"Oh," I say,"Maurice Sendak died. Remember when you took me to his book signing, those many decades gone?" I still have the book, dedication scrawled across the frontispiece, and of course the memory. The rumpus was wild that afternoon, indeed.

She does not, cannot, reply.

From Goodnight Moon to Murakami, Tom Kitten to Tom Sawyer, and countless more between, books were a world to us, a window, and a wonder. I remember when she told the school librarian to let me have as many as I wanted, never mind the limit. She knew what they meant to me, and she understood my hunger for the treasures they contained.

Her eyelids flutter so, so softly, and she murmurs as the morphine drips its slow, slow magic. This bed, this hospital, are no fictions, and we are no characters with finely scripted parts. This death is all too real, too sudden, and too soon. We sit, restless against unkind plastic chairs, and keep awkward vigil.

An eon or an instant passes, and there is no fluttering. I touch two fingers to her neck, and feel only skin -- soft, warm, motionless. This gesture harkens back to internship, made always and only for the same sad reason -- pronouncing death. What a phrase, I think. How is death pronounced, exactly? What sound can any other words receive once that one has been uttered? It hovers, thickening the air in the silent room. The slightest hint, and she is free.

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It's been two years, but I still feel her, like a secret character the author hadn't met, as I turn the pages of a novel or a history. I still want to share my finds with her, and greet her new discoveries. I'm starting a new book tomorrow, Mom, I say. I'm sure you'll like it.

With a Perspective, I'm Peggy Hansen.

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Peggy Hansen is a photographer, organic farmer and radiologist in Santa Cruz.

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