I stood next to his body with my hand on the back of a woman I’d only met once before. I didn’t even know her first name. I just knew her as his mother.
There’s no way to do that right. It’s impossible to properly console a mother who is crying over the loss of her son, her only child, her best friend. Crying’s not the right word. This was a complete and utter loss of all emotional faculties. Up and down my hand went on her back. A constant rhythm. That’s all I could think of. Up and down. Up and down.
Trying to give her privacy, I stared intently at the cabinet against the wall, filled with medical supplies. In the glass, I caught the reflection of his face, waxy and still. I heard her talk to him, telling him who she notified and how his son will be fine and how she’ll be strong because she knows he would want her to be. And I heard her deny it over and over again, repeating the word no with a low staccato beat. Her face buried in the blue sheet that covered him, she moaned, a low guttural sound that echoed in my head. Up and down. Up and down.
I noticed that one of the cabinet doors was slightly ajar and contemplated walking over to close it. The more I stared, the more it bothered me. Why didn’t somebody close that fucking door? The rest of them are closed and how hard is it to close. one. door? And the sheets? Why were the sheets wrinkled? Hadn’t anyone thought that the sheets should be nice and neat? Without thinking, I reached out to straighten the sheet in front of me. My hand touched his covered body. It was very solid and felt cool to the touch. And it felt wrong. So wrong.
Suddenly, I was ready to leave. If it wasn’t for my hand on the back of this woman I didn’t know, moving up and down, while she said goodbye to her son, a friend, I would have been gone. Instead, I breathed and looked him in the face and listened to her words. I felt her love and her grief and her pain and her misery as if it were my very own.
And I stood silently and like a statue, if not for the arm moving up and down, up and down, until she was done saying goodbye to her only son.