I press the button which raises the head-part of the bed. "Time for dinner, mum." I rub her arm gently. She is trying to blink herself into consciousness, those watery, blue eyes which almost cant see anymore, struggling to focus on something in the room. She looks a bit confused so I tell her, it is me standing there next to her. She blinks, slowly for a while until she manages to stare right into the air, eyes as wide open as they can be. "Mum, can you turn your head a bit please, because then it's easier for you to drink?". She's too sick to really speak anymore, but she turns her head a little bit towards me, indicating that at least she understands what I'm saying right now. Her graying hair, only traces of brown left now, is ruffled from sleep, thin and soft, framing her almost skeleton face. "Mum, could you please open your mouth a bit, so I can give you something to drink?" She tries to open it, she really does, but there is only a few milimeters of space between her lower and upper lip. "Mum, you need to open it a little bit more....". She tries again, and this time she succeeds and I'm able to place the bib-like plastic top on the bottle between her lips. I try to tilt it, ever so slightly, knowing from previous experience that there is no reflexes left to prevent her from just taking in all the liquid poored into it. I manage - she swallows obidiently, but no compensating cough - the result of too much liquid in her throat - follows, which is a good sign. We take a break for some seconds, then I scoop some of the finely chopped potatoes and meat onto the spoon. "Can you open your mouth again, mum? Here is some nice potatoes and meat, just as you used to make it yourself...". She opens her mouth a bit more this time, and sucks the food from the spoon just like a small child and continues making chewing movements with her mouth for a while, though the food has long since been swallowed. "Mum, can you open your mouth again, so you can have a sip of milk to clear your mouth...?". It remains tightly shut, making her look like a pouting schoolgirl. "Mum, please try to open your mouth..."
I wait. I insist. Once more, she can barely force her lips from each other and I continue urging her until I succeed in making her drink some more. Then another spoonful of food, which is cold long before she is finished eating even half of it. Soon, however, this slowwinded ritual stops, because right now she is just too tired to even eat - and I know that just answering me "no" or "yes" ("Are you still hungry, mum? "Do you want some more to drink?") in this squeaky, pleasing voice of hers is wearing her down even more.
I remove the cloth beneath her chin. I grab the remote-control for the bed once more, and lower the head-end of the bed, so she is almost lying straight again. I arrange the duvet around her, her shoulders have gone cold, because the staff has left her lying here without a blouse this afternoon. I get up, and move a chair to her side and start to read to her from a members magazine, insignificant news. It seems like she listens for a while, eyes still open, a look as if a thin white film covers them, and this in a flash reminds me of that sick stray kitten she once took in when I was a child, in a wadded basket, eyes looking at me through the exact same membrane; though scared stiff of us, no energy to fight back the measly 24 hours we managed to keep it alive. I read on, struggling to keep my voice steady, till she closes her eyes and her breathing becomes deeper and her shallow snore returns. Once again, I stroke her arm gently, it is full of big red spots from where her all-too brittle skin has brushed against the sides of the bed, it is so thin and ugly now.
I kiss her forehead.
I whisper goodbye.
posted March 29, evening.