Saturday, June 5, 2021


**I've been trying to tell this story, in writing, since July 2020. Today, the one-year anniversary of Mommy's death, it is done. This is not the full story; lots of backstory details are missing. But they're not needed for this version to be a complete meal. I'll write the full one at a later date. **

In movies
and on TV
we often see
terminally ill people
begging those they love
to help them die

don't just stand there
watching them suffer
do something
make it stop

In movies
and on TV
it's all fake

until in real life
your life
it's not

You think you know
think you've displayed them
in the biggest ways
think you've helped people
done the most valuable favors
given of yourself
in the hardest ways

you think
when you tell
someone you love
you'll do anything
for them
you'll have the strength
when the time comes
to do whatever

no matter what

is help them die

In movies
and on TV
the anguish
on the face
of the loved one
being stared in the eye
while hearing that plea for help
is fake

until in real life
your life
on your face
it's not

When your mother
now barely 90 pounds
whose skeleton
dismally protrudes
through her rice-paper thin
brown skin
whose ability to tend
to her basic needs
even the simplest of them
has been savagely snatched
by The Intruder
while you watched
her discouragingly rapid decline
for weeks

when you witness your mother
whose idea of freedom
is self-sufficiency
grow angrier
more rebellious
more defeated by the hour
because her freedom
has run its 76-year course

when your mother
stops fighting and instead
starts verbalizing
her intense desire
to exit the scene

when your mother
has already been
subtly asking you
to help her escape

when your mother
two days
before her flight
looks you in the face
as you two struggle
to adjust her ravaged body
in bed
and wails in gut-wrenching agony:
and your heart
inside your chest
from the crushing
verbal impact

when your mother
finally declares
a state of emergency

you call 911

but not on the phone

they can't bring her
the help she wants

you gotta go
above their heads
way above

you gotta call
the ancestors

Of the myriad on staff
you're certain
of the most influential


the ones whose grip
would be firm enough
yet still loving enough
to convince her to let go
come live with them 
in the upgraded realm
where she would know
the best kind of freedom
convince her
that her only child
her last-living sister
and all her unfinished business
that weighed so heavily
on her heart
will be covered 
and handled
with the utmost care

Two days after her plea
consciousness waning
suffering deepening
yet grip on the unfree world
still tight enough with worry
to keep her bound

you make the literal
life-changing call
with your whole chest
with all your faculties in place

with the knowledge
that 911 calls
are the most serious
of them all

You get in the car
start driving 
and you call the six of them
one by one
by name
tell them to listen
tell them you're serious
tell them you understand 
what you're about to say
give them explicit instructions

"She's tired.
She's suffering.
She doesn't wanna be here.
But she won't let go.
One of you has the influence.
One of you can make her let go.
So one of you gotta come get her.
I don't care who.
But one of you gotta do it.
And you gotta come get her
While Pauline is still here.
Before she goes home for the weekend.
She has to be here with me when it happens.
So you gotta come get her...tonight."

You finish your command
drop the bills at the post office—
the bills for June 
that she was so upset 
the day before
that you hadn't mailed yet—
go back home
call freshly made
and lie on her bed
while she thrashes incessantly
in the hospice bed
and watch her
for four hours
the two of you
engaging in countless 
wordless glances

glances you know
are the last ones 
you'll ever share

At 10:14 p.m.
on June 5th
when you look at the clock
after you
and her sister
with hands affixed to her body
have stood inches from her face
watching her finally let go
you look in your mother's peaceful eyes
before you gently
press them closed for good
and ask her:

"Which one of 'em
came and got you?"

©2021 Charlene E. Green