They are all there, asking
clumsily about mortality:
the half-cousin I’ve never met.
The uncle, who whines constantly
about his health and cannot keep
any aunts around to listen.
“What about life after death?”
they want to know.

My Grandfather sits
by her bed immoveable.
A glacier, in the limelight
for once. All their lives
she towered over him,
so full of German blood,
her hair stayed red for years.
When she dyed it,
finally, nobody noticed.

She would smile her fixed grin
in our brief bi-yearly visits.
Even her teeth scared me
and I came to dread her jolly
facade, her probing questions
I always left unanswered.

I don’t speak now, only
follow the last cousin
into her cell, the bed holds her,
inclined, surrounded
by life breathing machines.

It is done in a moment

the tubes slide easily out.
Her last breath is a suction of dying
lungs but she leaves the room in silence.
The closest we will ever come
to understanding.

Note: I wrote this when I was 18, 5 years after my grandmother died.


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