We have showered, a matter of needing to be clean for Tracy, a small part of ritual for me.
I’ve picked out long sleeves, white satin, embroidered and white for her top.
Silken light blue pants.
A surprise greets us down in the sickroom.
Mom’s face has changed – her mouth is no longer hanging open, refusing to close. Instead, she has a smile, a beautiful smile, and an amazing, serene expression.
The final proof we needed – she has gone some place else. Better.
Tracy and I talk softly to her, telling her what we’re doing.
She is so cold.
We take off the sheets, throw them away. We take out the catheter, throw it away. We take off her socks, throw them away. Rigor mortis has set, and we cannot move her as easily. So we cut her out of the nightshirt she had been wearing.
We throw it away.
Her gaunt, naked, bruised body before us, we take the softest of baby cloths and water, and we clean her skin. We move slowly, from foot to head, my sister on the left, I am on the right. We each take a turn washing her face, and then we repeat the process with lotion.
We have to cut the nightshirt to get it on, but that’s okay. The sky blue pants go on easier, but not without some comedy – around this point, my sister begins to giggle and sing “I feel pretty, oh so pretty” through her own tears.
Her giggles are contagious.
Tracy picks out the colour of lipstick, and I slowly apply it to my mother’s smiling lips. My sister lifts the body slightly and I brush her hair, smoothing it back into a more calm, less Einsteinian mass. With scissors, I cut a small lock of hair from her temple, where we have been brushing her hair back as we assure her of our love, our permission to go. Wetted lightly, I twisted it into a knot and placed it in the locket with hair from almost a year ago, from when she cut it all before chemo.
The final touches. Tracy finds soft blue and white socks that match what Mom is clothed in, and we each place one on a foot.
I uncork the Chanel #5, a Christmas gift for years. One of her favourite scents. I place it upon the now still pulse points of my mother, and along my own. Later, the bottle will go into my own things.
The tears have stopped. So has the giggling. We stand, on either side of her body, admiring our beautiful mother one last time.
We get Dad, and quietly cover her to her chin with a soft white blanket.
The morgue will be here at 10.