The floors are sky blue and the walls are butter cream yellow. When my mother moved from a bed with red curtains to a bed with blue curtains, it seemed to be a move from danger to safety.
But then the doctor called me out for a chat, and he took me to a private room.
“It will be very difficult for your mother to make it to Christmas,” he said. “I don’t like to make estimates about time, but she is very weak. I don’t expect her to see 2018.”
There was a window in the room and a robin hopped from a high branch of an elm tree to a closer branch. Or there might not have been a window at all. It might have been a wall with a whiteboard, and a chart with patient’s initials and codes for their various conditions.
“I explained the situation to your mother and she signed this DNR form.”
The doctor opened his white folder to the front page, to show the blue purple paper with black writing that said, “Do Not Resuscitate” at the top.
“Your mother is very weak,” the doctor said. “If her heart stops, it would be too traumatic to try to make it start again, and it would not have a good result, it wouldn’t work.”
The doctor’s ecru-colored trousers had knife creases, and the buttons on his shirt strained slightly around his middle.
“I just wanted to explain the situation to you so you are prepared,” he said.
As he stood up to leave, I felt that I needed to learn something deeper from this man who must have seen hundreds of people pass away.
“She said she’s scared about what comes next,” I said. “What can I tell her?”
“With her condition, she won’t be in a lot of pain,” he said. “Most likely she will become very tired. Then she will lose interest in eating. Then she will just fall asleep and not wake up.”
But what about after that, I wanted to say. What about after she doesn’t wake up.
“You have to forget about tomorrow,” he said. “If she is here today, have a good day today.”
In her bed, my mother groaned with each breath, her body curled into a fetal skeleton. Other patients moaned and cried rhythmically around her.
I brought her a full English breakfast with eggs, bacon, sausage, hash browns and tomatoes, and a hot cup of tea. She sat up and ate most of it. She smiled and laughed and asked why Princess Diana was on the front page of the Daily Mail today, and why it had been Marilyn yesterday.
“Why do they keep bringing people back from the past?” she asked.
“I suppose when people are special, we always want to know more about them,” I said. “And I suppose everyone has something special about them if you know them well enough.”