(a story, adapted from life)
It's hard to help someone die. The process can be exhausting.
Take Nona, for example. She's been dying a while now. At first it seemed like maybe her death was going to come soon, a thing of the Maker's mysterious choosing, but she's hanging on, day after day keeping up with breathing and eating, though she's still really weak.
Helping the dying takes a lot out of a person. Having to be helpful and positive and sympathetic and 'there' for them wears a body down. Like, each day you help the dying you die a little too, which is pretty close to the truth if you think about it.
Nona's not much trouble. She knows something's up but still feels good enough to try to sit up and eat small bites of the soft food I make for her. Chopped up pasta, some pudding, spoons of milkshake, creamed corn on a good day when she seems like she can chew. Ground up meatloaf is Saturday's treat, after which she needs to nap because protein is hard on her. Nona gets along, breathing in and out, spending her days looking at things and listening to the talk around her.
But she is, in fact, dying. As pleasant as she is, and as little trouble as she is, she's headed Home, as my folks would say. It's taking a while, but her feet are on the path. Death is inevitable.
The odd thing is, Nona's not old at all. Odder still, Nona's my baby.
Oddest of all, she's perfectly healthy.
But still is going to die. One day. And the worst part is that I did this to her. I gave her life, so that one day she will die. Some day, when I'm not around and she is old, she will rely on someone else to comfort her, to feed her, to change her, to sing to her, to read to her, to talk with her, to point out the sun and birds and trees to her, to comfort her when she is hurt and scared and alone and cold. I cry to think of it, and hate myself for what I've done.
I did this to my baby. Every day she's one day closer to death.
She sleeps peacefully, not aware of her ultimate demise. She's happy in the tub, not caring about being frail and confused someday. She looks at me with love, unaware that I have killed her by having her.
I have done this horrible wonderful thing, this Nona.
God help me wring this terrible wretched truth from my thoughts.
Readers, please note: if you have ever wondered what women with post-partum depression think of while they're catatonically wandering around their homes after having a baby, this is pretty much it. At least it was for me. I was so SAD to have had Thing 1 that I apologized to him time after time for being part of his death.
PPD isn't just being sad; it's capable of rendering a normal woman completely crazy and derranged and thinking the very darkest of thoughts. It scared me.
I did finally get better.