there is a scent a moment upon entering the doors of certain acute care facilities when olfactory senses kick in with the aroma of age of adult diapers the amonia-like scent of urine stuck to the unwashed like unholy waters or over ripe turning fruit the scent of impending death of rot of decay of sickness of the forgotten the destiny of the poor of the incureable the poor the solo option when private care at home is the one unaffordable option prohibitive due to lack of funds when a private hire nurse/caregiver is fiscally out of the question….
it is the smell unique to these places where humans often end up they sit in hallways strapped in wheelchairs or left alone in unmade beds they are joined with others who have aged those who have a terminal illness and can no longer be cared for by anyone who may have once loved them or even might still love them or not and they usually end up here when funds are scarce a last resort for the last days of life….
my mother died alone in one such place with exactly such smells permeating every corner she never knew the difference never knew how her daughter stood day after day at the outside doors gasping for air as panic attacked made her heart pound as she and it searched for strength for entry and escape from a near-exploding, panic-ridden chest….
my mother’s daughter became the unknown at the end a stranger not even a vague memory penetrated the plaque that had poured into my mother’s brain cells her daughter left one such facility on a cold night in 1995 walking silently behind her mother behind the sounds of the coroner’s guerney wheels rolling down a rainy pavement and my mother’s daughter finally breathed a sigh of relief knowing that by choice she would never have to cross this sort of threshold of hopelessness again… knowing this she took in air, kept her breath and waited for the tears that waited and came too many years later….
this week my mother’s daughter will stand at similar automatic doors again praying for air hoping for strength on a journey to say goodbye to someone she calls friend the scents will be there, i’m sure and she will marvel and wonder why these types of families such as his with these sorts of resources such as theirs would damn one sharing their bloodline to this sort of place no matter what his lifetime of sins may have been no matter what banishment and familial scorn he may have incurred no matter what the promised punishment… she will question in silence why they have chosen instead not to pay the easy price for a private, comfortable hospice death for him brother in a comfortable semblence of someone’s home……
there should be a warm fire burning in a house filled with beauty so his blind eyes can remember … there should be scents of pine, gardenia, the sea…….warm soup should be slowly cooking on a kitchen stove… he should be listening as he drifts in and out to the sounds of the birds he once loved singing for him outside his window he should be comforted when the unknown of what’s next becomes a true fear…….calm should fill his remaining senses smells of home of comfort should hold him dearly ……soft pillows clean warm sheets should caress his now-frail frame his favorite classical music or shinto should tinkle as background serenade rocking him in and out of sleep…..his pain should be controlled minimal or non-existent by his former abused drugs of choice opiates given plentifully by a caring nurse should be finally used for what they were intended for all along and he should know that in spite of his life and his choices that he is loved here by family at endgame…
the automatic doors will be the same the scents will prevail and i will still pray for the important strength to cross the same sort of threshold and i will beg for my own swift uncomplicated death when my time arrives …. no not here no spare me from these smells spare me the terror of dying alone spare me this ending spare me an ending without birdsong outside my window assist me in ending me with my own hand if need be before you leave me here buried alive and alone in these such lonely and confusing scents of death
maybe i will be able to take the hand of my friend whisper comfort to him tell him of the sights and the sounds and the memories and pray silently that his own swift endgame comes quickly before these scents and smells of death become all that he can remember of his