#165 Between Life and Death

by Heidi Heim

Chemo does nasty things to a body. My first round catapulted me into a funk not even Prozac could touch. The second took mercy on my mood, but turned my scalp into a dried-up riverbed. I refused the third round.

My mother used to laugh recounting how Father McPherson had paced the hospital waiting room the day I was born. Her labor lasted 36 hours. Father wore a hole in his shoe.

Now, 35 years later, he sits beside my hospital bed, his tall, gaunt figure framed by yellow walls and paintings of crimson poppies. The hospice I now call home is at once the most cheerful, and the most dismal, place I’ve ever encountered.

“What’s it like?”

His eyes meet mine. “Death?”


A gentle grin spreads across his face. The crevices around his mouth deepen. He leans back in his chair and strokes his balding pate. “A meadow bathed in warmth, a kaleidoscope of rainbows.”

I want to respond, but a barrier has come between us.

I’m not in bed anymore. I’m a passenger on a driverless bus, in my pocket a one-way ticket to Death.

From the fingerprint-stained window, I see the Beyond. Only it’s not like Father McPherson said. There is no burst of brilliance. There is only emptiness.

Father leans forward, questioning. I want to tell him what it’s really like, but then I remember how his eyes shone when he spoke of the meadow, the colors.

I draw a labored breath. “It’s lovely.”


Dino Parenti said...

I really admire where you took this. Just when it seemed to be edging into cliche, you offered (at least to me) a kind of absolution and forgiveness for the priest. Nicely done.

Heidi said...

Thank you, Dino!

Flutterby said...

Really nice piece. A lot of people try to write about a moment of passing and it's so easy to overdo it. This was well-done.

Heidi said...

Much appreciate your kind words, Flutterby!

Rachel Green said...

Oh, bravo. Such kindness at the moment of death.

Catherine Vibert said...

Oh wow, this is brilliant. All romance with 'the beyond' is just deleted in her POV, her reality is much more final, yet she maintains this politeness. It's a perspective that would be hard to write about, but I imagine is more common than not. I love it. Thank you.

Heidi said...

Thanks for all the very kind comments and feedback. SO much appreciated!