I raised a trembling hand to touch the frail figure on the bed. The constant beep of the heart-monitor told me Mom was alive, but I needed to feel her heart throb beneath my fingers.
Tears filled my eyes as I felt the weak pulse of her heart.
Mom was my anchor in life. She’d held my hand and cried with me after my miscarriage five years ago. She’d stood beside me, my rock in a stormy sea, when I lost my husband only a year later. Every day after Nick’s death had felt like I was rolling on a bed of burning coal. The vortex of despair would have claimed me forever if not for Mom’s unwavering love.
Listening to the wheeze of her breath through the respirator made my heart clench. Darkness closed in, threatening to suffocate me. What would I do once she was gone? How could I face life without her?
I shook off the depressing thoughts. I had to be strong now. All her life, she had sacrificed for the good of others. Now it was my turn. I had to fight for her.
The door to the private suite slammed open. My brother and sister-in-law charged in. Roger’s green eyes flashed with anger. Alice’s lips curled in disgust. The rest of the family – my cousins, aunts, uncles – shot me accusing looks from outside the door. My heart pounded. One woman against so many. How the hell could I win this battle?
“You told the doctors not to put Mom on life-support?” Roger’s harsh voice sliced through me. “Who gave you the right to make that decision?”
“She wants to kill her own mother,” Alice sneered. “Even animals take care of their own.”
I flinched at her words. My resolve faltered. What kind of a daughter wanted her mother to die?
I gazed at Mom’s still form. The laughter lines on her face were long gone. Her lips were pinched, her brows knitted in pain even when she was unconscious. My jaw clenched. That damned cancer had sucked everything good out of her. How could I let her suffer more?
“Roger,” I whispered. “You promised Mom that we’d let her go when the time comes…”
“You little liar!” Roger snapped.
Uncle Jim walked in, his face red. “If you want her money, you can have it. Don’t kill Rose for it.”
My hands curled into fists. “You can burn her money. All I want is for us to keep the promise that Roger made to her.”
Roger snorted. “What promise?”
Was he kidding me? “We promised Mom that if her organs started to fail, we’d let her go. You swore you wouldn’t put her on life-support.”
Realization dawned in Roger’s eyes and a guilty flush tinged his cheeks. He shifted uncomfortably on his feet. “Um… I don’t know what you’re blabbing about.”
“Roger would never forget a promise he made to Rose,” Alice snapped. “Unlike his ungrateful sister.”
I bristled at the dig at me and glared at my brother. “Tell them the truth.”
Roger cleared his throat, a helpless look in his eyes. “I can’t let her die, Lizzie. Mom deserves another chance to live.”
I felt like banging my head on the wall. Mom fought the cancer with everything she had. But it devoured her slowly. Last year had been nothing but anguish for her. She had screamed in pain till her voice became hoarse. She had begged for death. And all I could do was hold her hand and cry.
“Roger, please. Only her happiness matters now. Don’t make her suffer because you’re afraid of losing her. If you love her even a little, let her go in peace.”
“Love?” he sneered. “What do you know of love? You want us to hand her over to death gift-wrapped.”
His words slashed through me like a butcher’s knife. I flinched. “And you want to torture her by trapping her here, even though she begged you not to do it.”
Roger stiffened. Hurt and anger flashed through his eyes. He whipped around and strode to the door, his face tight.
Swallowing my guilt, I turned to Mom and brushed back her hair.
“I’m so sorry, Mom. I failed you.” My throat closed, salty tears cascaded down my cheeks. “I… I don’t know what to do.”
When it’s out of your hands, darling, pray. Mom’s words from long-ago echoed in my mind.
I gulped. I hadn’t prayed in a long time. Each day I watched Mom suffer, my faith in God had decreased. In the last month, every time I heard her scream, I’d wanted to curse Him instead.
But now, my heart voiced the prayer that my lips refused to utter.
Please! Please accept Mom. End her pain. I kept repeating it like a broken record even as tears coursed down my face.
Mom’s hand suddenly jerked. Her body convulsed with violent seizures. High-pitched beeps sliced through the room. In moments, doctors streamed through the door shouting instructions. Someone wrenched Mom’s hand from mine and pushed me back. I sank to the ground, arms curled around my stomach.
Roger stood outside the door hugging a sobbing Alice. Silent tears trickled down his face as he watched the doctors struggle to sustain Mom’s heartbeat. And me? I squeezed my eyes shut and prayed for her death. My mind screamed, “Traitor!” But my heart never strayed. It continued its fervent prayer for her release from such a painful life.
A small ball of pulsating light formed within me. It morphed into a whirlpool, powerful currents swirling around a brilliant center. My heart thudded in my chest as it reeled me in. What the hell was happening? Clenching my fists, I struggled and tried to swim back. But like an ant swept in a flood, the currents sucked me in. Before I knew it, I flew through the center and landed on something soft.
Brilliant light filled every particle around me. The atmosphere was silent and still like the center of a storm – the point of Absolute Potential from which all action manifested. My heart calmed down, filled with a strange feeling I hadn’t felt in a long time – happiness.
The ground shifted. I stumbled, my hands trying to hold on to something. A tentacle of soft light wrapped around my waist, holding me. It felt strangely like Mom’s loving arms. The moment I remembered Mom, the light around me pulsated. Every particle of light flowed towards me, pooling, merging and forming two giant figures of light. I looked at one of the figures and realization burned through me.
Tears pricked my eyes. How was this possible?
Her giant hand picked me up and placed me lovingly on her shoulders.
“Are we dead?” I asked her, my throat tight.
Mom’s melodious laugh sent joy spiraling through my veins. It had been so long since I’d heard it.
No, Lizzie. You’re not dead, not yet. But I belong in this beautiful world now.
“Is this heaven?”
A male voice echoed in my head. Not exactly. This is a world of souls who have dedicated their lives to love. We call it the Brighter World.
“How did we get here?”
Love is the key to this world. Your love for your mother and hers for you brought you here.
You see, Lizzie, I’ll be happy here. Death is just a new beginning to a life in another world. It’s nothing to be afraid about.
I nodded as tears spilled down my cheeks. “I know you want us to let you go. But Mom, I can’t imagine a life without you. Why can’t I stay here with you?”
Because your life is not over yet. You have much to do before we meet again. I love you so much, Lizzie. Tell Roger that I’m happy here.
A powerful force tugged my navel and yanked me back. Someone was screaming like a banshee. Irritation surged through me. I opened my eyes and blinked. I was back on the hospital floor, arms curled around my stomach. The doctors were shouting instructions to each other as they slammed the defibrillator over Mom’s body. I took in the scene through a detached and numb mind.
It’s no use. Mom’s not coming back, I wanted to say. But the words stuck to my throat.
“Lizzie!” Roger’s pain-filled whisper jolted me from my numbness. I turned to him, my heart clenching at the agony and fear on his face. Walking to him, I pulled him into a tight hug.
Words still eluded me, but I let my hug convey all my love (and Mom’s) to him. His body shook as he silently sobbed on my shoulders. High pitched beeps echoed through the room. My heart stuttered as my eyes darted to the flat line on the heart monitor and then to Mom.
She had died with a smile on her face. She was happy at last, but she’d left behind those who would mourn her till their dying day. The vortex of despair beckoned. What would I hold on to now?
The cemetery was packed with people on the day of her funeral. She had touched so many lives with her love. Vivid memories of all our years together overwhelmed me– her beautiful smile, her joy in life, her compassion for those in pain….
“Love is giving, Lizzie,” Mom used to say. And she’d lived every moment of her life by that principle. No one who had come to her had gone back empty-handed. Every life she had touched had blossomed.
I wiped the tears from my cheeks. Death may have taken her body, but it could never touch the happy, glowing memories of her presence that was branded in my very soul.
That was what I’d hold on to. Till it was my time to meet her in the Brighter World.