“When pigs fly,” I point to the stuffed pig swinging from the hospital IV pole.
Maria attempts a smile, but it fades before completion.
“Some say you’re not going to get better, but I bought this pig and hung him up in the air to show you pigs can fly. Impossible things happen every day.”
I brush strands of blond hair off her face.
She gingerly moves her head, the only thing left she can move, and stares beyond me out the window viewing a bleak, brick wall. A cold draft of winter wind seeps through the window.
“I hate that tracheotomy tube. I miss your voice.” I sigh. “I wish I could take you to McDonald’s: Big Mac, French fries, chocolate shake, and cookies. How you stay so thin is a mystery to me.”
Maria exhales heavy.
I’m sure she misses McDonald’s outings even more than me. I hope they remove the tube and she can eat again soon.
I sit next to her, careful not to disturb the various tubes and monitors.
“That will be our first stop…”
She closes her eyes and turns her head away from me.
God, I don’t know what to say to her. I don’t understand why you allowed her housemate to attack her, breaking her neck. Hasn’t Maria suffered enough in life?
Maria’s hand lay limp by her side.
I rescue her hand, cradling it inside my own; her tanned skin now as pale as mine.
The little television dangles from the swiveling arm. Maria usually watches cartoons. They appeal to her child mind. She likes to laugh or at least she used to laugh.
The helium, get-well balloon and flying pig flank the bed with painted smiles. The two obliviously cheerful objects remind me of Nutcrackers, but the action is backwards. My sugar plum fairy should be dancing around, but lies still. The Nutcracker sentinels bob and dance on the draft.
The blue and mauve curtains add texture to the pale blue walls. There’s a peach Formica counter where most patients have flowers and cards from family and friends. One lonely card stands in protest to the others absent; the ones that abandoned Maria long ago.
“What did I ever do wrong for them to leave me? Why don’t they love me?” Maria occasionally lamented with tear-filled eyes.
“You didn’t do anything wrong, Maria.” I would hug her. “I love you. I’m sorry they hurt you. It’s not fair.” I couldn’t imagine any circumstance justifying her family. So what if she’s mentally slow? Does that give them the right to throw her away?
Maria suffers terribly during holidays.
I do my best to get her through Christmas’s without family. I try to be more than just a court-appointed guardian. I’m her friend. She’s my favorite client.
Maybe I could afford some flowers to fill up the empty counter.
She turns her head back toward me with open eyes.
“I’m going to pray for you, Maria. Okay?”
“Dear Jesus, Please heal Maria, remove any pain, and comfort her. Help her to know that you are always with her and will never leave her.”
A tear rolls down her cheek.
“Oh. Maria.” I wipe away the tear and kiss her cheek.
Someone knocks on the open door. “Excuse me.”
A short, slender woman wearing a long white coat enters.
“May I speak with you in the hall?”
“Sure.” I return Maria’s hand to her side and follow the doctor into the hall.
“I’m afraid I have tragic news.” The doctor leans against the wall clutching a clipboard.
“What is it?” My heart races.
“We found cancerous tumors throughout her spine; bone cancer, stage four. That means…”
“I’m familiar with what that means. There is nothing that can be done, except make her comfortable.” Nausea permeates me.
“I don’t feel Maria should be informed of her condition,” the doctor said.
“Agreed. How long?”
“Days. It’s aggressive. We’ll start comfort measures.”
She touches my arm and leaves.
The chapel has beautiful stained glass windows. Tears well over.
“God! Please don’t let her suffer. If you’re not going to heal her now, take her to heaven quickly.”
Perhaps God allowed Maria’s accident to spare her cancer pain. I don’t understand your ways, but I’ll accept it.
A few days later, Maria passes away.
I miss her deeply.
The stuffed pig returns to me. When I see him, I know, pigs fly in Heaven.
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