Through These Eyes: The Family Room


“We’re going to take you to the Family Room now,” a man in a brown suit tells my family.

My grandmother, Mama, squeezes my hand and I look up to I see her face tighten. Her eyes are so full of tears that they have to let go, and so they do; they run down in streams, across her paper-thin, sun-spotted skin.

There is something bad about the Family Room, I sense. My uncle, my brother, everyone with us, they’re all tenser now.

The man in the brown suit escorts us from the ER waiting room and into a handsomely decorated room just big enough to fit everyone. There are flowers on an end table beside a floral-upholstered couch, and the smell here, it’s not so clinical. It smells nice. And lots of Kleenex. Boxes of it everywhere.

This room is so different. Uncomfortably different. It’s like we’ve stepped out of a hospital and into someone’s house.

The man in the brown suit leaves. Mama strokes my hair. No one is sobbing, but everyone’s crying. I don’t understand why. My mom is here, I saw the paramedics put her into the ambulance, but she’ll be OK because this is a hospital. She’s with the doctors now. Right?

There is some conversation amongst my family–I forget about what. It’s maybe Mama trying to lighten the mood. I look around the room, at its decor–its cheap wood paneling, mint green walls, floral paintings. Something is wrong about this place. It’s so, well, generic. Better than an ER, yes, but in a way spooky. Why does there exist such a room in a hospital?

The man in the brown suit re-enters. He is careful to shut the door quietly.

Mama squeezes my hand again. Her face again tightens. She looks at me, her eyes full of tears, and she smiles. She returns her attention to the man in the brown suit.

Something is coming.

“The doctors have done everything they can do,” he starts. I forget the next few sentences, but the last three words are forever: “… she passed away.”

And there is a suspension of time. Everything moves–for just a moment–in slow motion. There is no sound. The walls of the Family Room fade away. My vision tunnels. This moment lasts forever, a form of consciousness felt during only moments like this.

Then everything is loud. The silent sniffles, the restrained tears–everything–replaced with sounds of terrible distress. Mama moans loudly. She screams.

I know I’m screaming, too. My eyes aren’t enough to handle my tears. I’m nauseous. My heart will explode. My face is red. I’m hot all over. And I scream. I drown in the mucus in my throat. My nose, it knows that my eyes can’t handle all the tears, so it runs.

I want to run.

I want to run into my mom’s arms so she’ll make everything all right. I want, in this moment, and more than anything else in the whole wide world, for her to rush into this room, this horrible room, scoop me up, and run away with me.

I can’t breathe.

The man in the brown suit says something that no one pays attention to and he leaves.

Mama turns, wraps her arms around me, puts my head under her neck, and strokes my hair, sobbing, writhing in pain. She squeezes ‘til it hurts…

Mama tucks me in bed later that night and lays with me, our heads on the same pillow, she, petting my hair. She sings to me what she always sings when I sleep over at her house: “Go to sleep, Go to sleep, Go to sleep lit-tle ba-by. Go to sleep, Go to sleep, Go to sleep ba-by boy.”

And here we lay, night after night, repeating this routine: a mother who’s lost a daughter, a son who’s lost a mother, sharing our pillow, sharing our song, sharing our heartbreak.

Don’t wait until Mothers’ Day to tell her what she means to you. Call her. Now.

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