"Promise me that you'll take care of my kids," whispered Nan with fleeting breath. She dug her fingers desperately into her sister Betty's thin arm making her squirm. It was evening; the street lights flickered on outside the hospital room.
Betty had tried to turn the light on, but Nan shook her head the light bothered her aching eyes. Betty sat on the bed, had been sitting there for an hour. It seemed like forever. She was running out of upbeat things to talk about, and she had done all the talking while Nan drifted in and out of a comatose sleep. In the semi-darkness of the room now lit by the lights outside, Nan looked as pale as a ghost.
"Don't be silly. You'll be out of here in days!" Betty said loudly, too loudly, disturbing the almost reverent atmosphere, reverent because she saw an angel standing just beyond her vision. She knew. She had seen an angel twice before, when Grandma passed on during a visit to her family and again when she'd seen a collision in the street and had run to help the man who was pinned to the wheel. Just as she reached him, he had breathed his last breath. She had not only seen an ethereal being enveloped in a soft glowing light descending but heard the rushing sound of itís wings. "Nan, you are going to be fine, you have to. The kids have been asking for you, they miss you so much. I told them that you are getting better."
"It isn't true, I can't...I can't fight anymore Betty, I'm sorry," she said faintly laboring for every breath. Her large dark eyes, imbedded in deep shadows lay bare the quiet desperation of her soul. "Promise me...promise..." she breathed and drifted off, eyes fluttering and slowly relaxing into sleep.
She had been behaving like this for days and all the while she weakened. There was a time after the accident that took the life of Nan's husband and her youngest child when hope for her recovery shone brightly. She had come through surgery and the internal damage to her liver, colon and lower left lobe of her lung had been repaired. She improved for a few days before she grew weaker, lost her appetite and groaned as though she were in pain. Her life energy began to wane.
Betty never left her side except to look after the two surviving nieces who were spared injuries. Nan had instinctively covered them with her own body in the backseat when the rod smashed through the windshield piercing her abdomen.
Betty fought the doctor's decision to tell Nan about the deaths, but he had not listened, and she was sure that the blow had zapped Nan's strength. She had screamed and flailed about as though she had gone crazy,and afterward, she had started to weaken and hope faded. What was Betty to do with two young children? Her job, her all consuming job....Her life's ambition had prevented her from marrying the man she loved when he'd given her an ultimatum. It was her work or him and she had made her choice and said goodbye to him. Had it been worth it? She had asked the question and it had but now...
Betty pondered the answer to Nan's final wish. The mere thought of it overwhelmed her, she had to think it through- but it wasn't good enough there wasn't time. Her parent's-they were too old and frail for two lively kids. Her brother- irresponsible, going through girlfriends and money with the speed of light. She perused the gamut of friends that ran through her mind's eye. Frantically she searched for one good soul to take charge of Nan's kids but she came up with a blank. She sat engrossed in thought feeling the whole impact of her dilemma pressing down on her. The impending doom of Nan's approaching death overcame her last internal protest.
Exhausted Betty slept sitting in a chair, her body half draped across her sister's bed. Something awoke her, the nurse's swift receding footsteps or was it the brush of angel's wings? Nan's eyes fluttered open staring at her questioning. Her hand moved feebly across the sheet, inching upward as though waving her to come closer.
Betty recoiled; she was not ready yet she sensed the presence of ethereal beings all around. Fear gripped her heart, she wanted to scream, no, no, no I will not give her up, she has to stay. She leaned closer, her ear almost touching Nan's lips.
"Promise...pro..." a small sigh, a feeble breath escaped Nan's lips and she went limp.
"I promise Nan, do you hear me, I promise!" she wailed, and then she too became silent, prayerfully, reverently silent.