My friend’s mother passed away last night.
It was explained to me that her mother passed out and fell to the floor. My friend yelled to her grandmother to call 9-1-1. My friend then began administering CPR. This lasted just under five minutes. The paramedics arrived and took over. My friend, hysterical, called me. She told me her mother was not responding. I coached her breathing and asked her what she needed. She said she would call me when they were on their way to the hospital. I waited. I tried to remain calm. I paced around a little bit, waiting for a call. I started running through all possible scenarios in my head. Conversations with my boyfriend were short. We agreed that she could spend the night at the apartment if she wanted to get away. I told him she would probably be safer with us. He went about the apartment stashing alcohol and questionable prescriptions. I sent a text message to my friend. “Am I meeting you at the hospital?” Five minutes passed. “They just called it. She’s dead.” I had run over that possibility in my mind, but I was still stunned. I let my boyfriend know. I told my friend I was on my way.
The highway was quiet. I tried listening to music to take my mind off of things, but it just served as white noise at a point. The winding back roads of northwestern Maryland seemed longer at night. No street lights, no porch lights, just open skies with no light pollution. The drive was numbing. Each turn into darkness felt like a step into the big nothing, this great big abyss of darkness and static space. Time stands still in the big nothing. There’s not a care in the world in the big nothing.
I wanted to stay in the big nothing. I wanted to drive through a cornfield and hide. I wanted to turn around, go home, and hide under a blanket.
I arrived at my friend’s house, where she was sitting on the curb, waiting for me. As I parked, she ran at me, screaming and crying. I embraced her, holding her tight so she would stop hitting herself. There was self-blame, there was disbelief, there was overwhelming sadness. We smoked a few cigarettes, she told me that her mother’s body was still in the home, as the medical examiner was 30 miles away. The police sergeant stood watch, silent, observing the grieving. I offered my condolences to her family. They thanked me for being there. Her grandmother was shaking. Her aunt was trying her best to put on a strong face. Her brother was unable to make eye contact with anyone.
The next two hours were long. The medical examiner finally showed up. The family made phone calls. Her grandmother, the stoic matriarch, held a wrinkled hand over her mouth, clutching her handkerchief tightly. Her aunt, the eldest of the children, began manically cleaning to keep herself busy. Her brother paced around, not knowing what to do with himself. The medical examiner asked a lot of questions. Family members took turns answering questions until they couldn’t handle it anymore. My friend asked if she could spend the night at my house to get away. I checked in with her aunt and her grandmother. They both agreed that it was a good idea. “She’ll be safe with you,” her aunt said. “Take care of her.”
My friend went to her mother’s room to say a final goodbye to her. The men from the funeral home arrived as we were leaving. They offered their condolences, but my friend could not hear them, walking past them wordlessly and sat in my car. We drove off. She said she was forcing herself to be strong, that her family needed her. I could have engaged her in a discussion about what she could do to take care of herself, but it wasn’t the time or place. She alternated between telling stories about her mother and crying. “Tell me it’s a dream,” she pleaded.
I tried feeding her dinner, but she wouldn’t eat. My boyfriend had set blankets on the couch. She watched an episode of a TV show, and then fell asleep.
I dropped her back off at her house this morning after more tears and self-blame. She wanted to go back home to be with her family. I told her that was a good idea and off we went. She wanted to listen to music this time. I handed her my phone so she could pick a song. She picked Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me” after contemplating all other options. She copes through song, much like me. She quietly cried and I did my best to hold back tears.
In her driveway, she thanked me for everything. Her grandmother was standing in the doorway, just waiting, probably looking for someone to take care of. I nodded at her and she returned the sentiment. I saw them hug as I backed out of the driveway and sped home.
Emotionally, I’m spent. I’m sitting under a layer of blankets in my cold apartment, waiting for my boyfriend to come back from work. I want to be held. More than that, I want to hold him. I want my siblings to come over, all of them, and help me build a blanket fort so we can all hide away. I want my mom to pick me up and take me out for ice cream. I want my grandfather to regain his memory and tell me the same stories about how he decided to become a doctor.
The blankets will have to do for now.