The Last Wish This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

By , New Orleans, LA
The vacant branches crept along in the gusty, fifty degree winds. The muffled Krispy Kreme drive-thru speaker was the only sound that interrupted the desolate street. My mother and I slowly made our way to the front of the building, gliding slowly past each manmade line in the newly constructed sidewalk path. My eyes swept from one side to the other, starting with the awkwardly positioned stones, to my floppy laces tied into an imperfect bow, to the neon pinks and purples of artificial flowers. The grass was a vibrant lime green compared to the other lawns’ of dark greens and dying browns.

My heavy eyes peered just above a small step, where the leather moccasins and tan cowboy boots of my aunt and uncle were. They sat on a swinging wooden bench that was bolted to the dappled white ceiling. I forced myself to look up at the building in whole. From the outside of the red bricks, it resembled an insurance firm with the touches of a tiny apartment complex. It wasn't the first time I had forced my eyes onto it, but I prayed it would not be the last.

My eyes met with the worried ones of my aunt and uncle, and an unspoken agreement took us to the door. A smell like the distinct odor of a dentist's office clustered in my nostrils as the door rung like the chime of a salon entrance. A mat with a plastered bible verse laid inside of the doorway, but everyone walked right over it. Off to the side, a room was dimly lit by a wobbly, golden chandelier and warmed by a gas heater with the picture of a fireplace on a screen. There was a distraught family around the table, discussing matters with someone professional. On the opposite side of the hallway, where my family was gathered, was an off-white, almost yellow, counter. The woman sitting behind the counter, with a kind face and green scrubs, told us to hold on as she picked up the phone. " River Oak's Hospice, how may I help you?", she answered. After the short discussion, she directed us to the correct room.

As we walked down the carpeted hallway, each room flickered with T.V. lights and soft rambling murmurs drifted through the open doors. One by one we filed into the room. A blue curtain, decorated with gray diamonds, dragged along in the A.C. current and revealed a sickly, skinny body enveloped in white quilts. Who is this? The question kept circling around in my head. Her sunken features were unrecognizable and her face was filled with a pale, gray tone. This was not my grandma; I refused to believe such a lie. This was not the same person who diligently cooked the hams, yams, mustard greens, baked beans, and cornbread two days in a row for Christmas dinner. This was not the same opinionated person that embarrassed me while harassing the Winn Dixie manager for thirty-five cents back for a bruised peach. This was not the same persistent person who repeated, "It's REAL good!", while dangling second helpings of dinner over full stomachs.

Deep, mechanical breaths heaved her lifeless body up and down. I watched her every breath, imagining her jumping up and yelping "Gotcha'!"

The four of us all sat in padded chairs around her bed. The clock's hands raced around the numbers as hours drifted by. The dramatic breaths of her sedated body continued, but slowly, the pause between each grew longer. A subconscious visitor slid into the room and sent a bone aching chill that seeped into my skin and thrashed across each individual goose bump. This unwelcomed visitor lurked behind me, whispering, "The waiting game is almost over." I shot my eyes to the shiny tiled floor, while my chest throbbed with an off-beat punch. My eardrums sent a piercing ring to distract the helpless feeling of terror that was consuming me. But the words I was waiting for trampled out like a parade of noisy marching bands, screeching cheerleaders, and the rumbling tractors of Mardi Gras. "I d-don't think she's b-breathing anym-more," slipped out of my mother's teeth. Everyone in the room froze. My aunt broke the silence with her deep, heaving sob. My uncle rubbed her shoulder while he smeared the built up tears across the wrinkles of his face. My mother trembled to the side of my grandma’s bed and whimpered, " I love you Mom. I j-just want you back, please come back. I-I love you."

The visitor took control of me, sending an electrified bolt down my neck and to my spine. My thoughts flashed back to the beginning of Christmas break, when she asked me to spend at least one weekend with her. There was such an urgency in her voice. I promised. I meant it, too. But, it was the last day of Christmas break when I remembered my promise to her. I passed the days away with constant sleepovers, late night phone calls, hours of pointless television shows, and other insignificant bliss that beguiled my perception of importance. Grief slithered deep into my skin and guilt latched onto me like a leech. My stomach turned, tossed, and fluttered, trying to find words. Proper goodbyes quoted in movies swarmed and buzzed around my head, but nothing came out. I skittishly looked around the room until my eyes focused on her one, brown eye that gazed up and locked onto mine.

A spiraling blur of raw, red eyes and trembling pleas whirled around the room. I walked in a dazed, dizzy motion out of the room, down the hallway, and to the bathroom. I sat on the hard, damp countertop as I listened for the tissue blowing and uncontrollable weeps on the other side of the building. My sultry emotions twisted around in my gut, until a warming joy comforted me. I started thanking God. I wasn't sure why. I didn't know if that was a bad thing to do after such an event happened. Tears started to zigzag down my cheek like a stream and my mouth kept spewing out thanks. I hoped I was thanking Him for sending her to Heaven. I prayed I was thanking Him for ending her suffering. I begged that I was thanking Him for granting her forgiveness.
My drooling thanks drained out and I was exhausted with guilt, the same guilt that feeds the leeches that are still latched onto my skin. Her gazing eye still stamps around my mind, reminding me that all she wanted was for me to spend one, last weekend with her. Now there was no way I could ever get that chance back. More importantly, I failed to fulfill her one, last wish of me.





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