The house was dark and cluttered, close to what I would have to call dirty, smelled of cigarettes and fried fish. Her partner told me she hadn't really woken up all day, but I was welcome to try to waken her. He pointed. After drifting through the kitchen and into a closet, I asked him for some directions. That's how dark it was. He walked me through three rooms to the very back of the house and flicked on a shaded lamp that might have had a 10 watt bulb in it. She was in her own bed, in her own bedroom, which was completely dark, heavy curtains drawn, thick flannel pajamas on her bony flesh. It was a cocoon, a cave, an inner sanctum. It was warm and she was warm and, surprise! There were three cats curled up in the bed with her. A soft comforter, a soft bed, a quietness that was so seductive I wanted to crawl into bed with her. She didn't say much. I didn't say much. I didn't listen to her lungs or look into her mouth or palpate her belly. I just sat on the edge of the bed and felt her warmth. She looked at me, started a sentence or two, neither went anywhere, and closed her eyes. This was a deep and wonderful sleep.
I remembered how much my mom resented the hospital bed with its flimsy plastic mattress and hard cold metal railings. It was so hard to keep her clean and dry that I had one delivered, but she hated it, hated it, hated it. I still wish I hadn't let it cross the threshold. Even though she never slept in it, it must have made her feel like she was in the hospital, when really, she was home. People often say, I want to die at home in my own bed.
I called hospice. Please cancel the hospital bed, I said.