Martinsville Bulletin, Inc.
P. O. Box 3711
204 Broad Street
Martinsville, Virginia 24115
Toll Free: 800-234-6575
Sunday, April 28, 2013
By HOLLY KOZELSKY - Bulletin Accent Editor
The toddlers play around at the foot of the deathbed of their great-grandmother. Their laughter and the clatter of toys are out of place amid the somber mood and quiet sniffles in the room.
The old lady lies in bed. It’s not her bed, but rather a special hospital bed; but at least it’s in the spare room in her house.
Her husband hovers at her side, wedged between the bed and the wall, never taking his eyes off her. Since he met her decades ago, he has worshiped the ground she walked on.
Thin and grey, she is a but a shadow of her former self.
Her adult children come in and out of the room quietly, checking on things, making sure everyone is alright. They have been taking care of things in the home for the past several weeks as their mother hovered in and out of the danger zone.
They open the door for visitors. In hushed tones, they give updates on their mother’s condition before ushering new people into the room.
The grown grandchildren mill around at the foot of the bed, not sure what to say or do, trying to maintain composure.
One leans down to quiet the yammering youngsters.
“Oh, let them be,” says one of her daughters, one of the little ones’ grandmothers. “Mama always loves babies. She likes to hear that noise.”
At that, the great-grandmother briefly smiles and raises her hand, before letting it flutter slowly back down to the mattress.
Indeed, it’s the babies and toddlers who provide the only link to real life. They are the sign that life goes on, that there will be naps to take, dinner to be made, spills to clean up, despite the frozen-in-time quality of that bedroom.
Most of the family step out for a few moments. There’s something going on, someone coming in or leaving, someone else going to the bathroom, someone getting a drink. The room is almost empty.
When they come back into the room, the husband is leaning over the bed, embracing the partner who has been his font of happiness for decades. He straightens back up shyly in front of the others.
One of her daughters holds a cup with chips of ice to her lips. Another stands by with pudding. Please, Mama, try to eat a little something, they plead.
The great-grandmother lays in her bed. Her family soak up as much of her essence as they can, for as long as they have left of her. She won’t be much longer for the world.
However, in the adults standing around her with tears in their eyes, and in the little children playing obliviously at her feet, she’ll live forever.