She went to the nursing home every day. Not because she had family there, or because she liked to volunteer out of the goodness of her heart, but because she wanted to be there when someone died.
She wanted to be the receiver of their last words. That was important, she figured, to be a part of someone’s last alive, soulful moments. There had to be meaning to that, even if they were going to an afterlife and even if they were not, something people say in their last moments has to have some importance. And there has to be some reason that the person who stayed alive, received those words.
Only once before had she heard someone’s last words. It was on March 14th, and they were from a boy whose age was decades premature to the mean she now surrounded herself with. She hadn’t known they would be his last words. She had actually just met him, and they made plans for the next day.
On a Friday afternoon, she sat beside Mr. Henderson’s bed as he babbled along about the little boy he once was. He was not that boy anymore; in fact, he was going crazy and given around one week left to live, so that’s why she was sitting beside him.
“And I was swimming so fast along, that old Carson boy kept trying to hold me back, hold me back, but I kept swimming away, swimming, and then I was running and I ran here to now,” she somehow related to that.
“So you just passed all that time so quickly?”
“Oh yes, I went much too fast,” and he closed his eyes softly. She hoped this would be the moment he passed. It seemed reasonable. She would be satisfied.
She stayed by his bed until the day grew dark and she waited for his breaths to thin. But the electronic beats of his respirator steadied on, singing of soothing dreams than weakened hearts. She would stay overnight then, she decided; because it was the weekend and because: just in case.
His nasally breaths filled the room and she guessed the time Mr. Henderson would pass. 3:14 A.M. seemed like a reasonable time.
But then 3:15 came and the beeps remained constant. The most stable thing in his life right then were those damn echoed heartbeats. She hoped they would stop.
Was it awful she couldn’t wait for him to die? She just wanted him to pass at the right time, at a moment that would mean something and with words she could pass on as part of his legacy. He said to her earlier, don’t speed up your life. She could live by that; it was a story she could tell others about how she sat at a dying man’s bed as he told her not to rush life. That’s how it’s supposed to happen. People aren’t supposed to make plans and die; connections shouldn’t be formed only for them to be ripped away before a relationship can even get underway. That leaves too many questions and it wouldn’t make sense. If Mr. Henderson died right now, it would be perfect.
The next morning, she woke up to news that Mrs. Johnson had passed away in her sleep in the room next door. Apparently her last words were to the night attendant, “See you in the morning.” The night attendant repeated the phrase back to her, and closed the door. What a one-sided statement that was.
She felt overwhelmed, but, ultimately, empty. The kind of emptiness that pleads you toward acceptance of nothingness. The numbness to excitement that will kill a soul before it kills a body. The part of time that is stuck in no time at all. The sort of not then, not now, but the in between where cityscapes fade to country sides and you’re not sure if it’s the people or the world that feel lonelier.
She continued sitting beside Mr. Henderson. He awoke from his heavy slumber and spoke to her like it was any normal day.
“Good morning, Destiny,” he said.
“Good morning, Mr. Henderson.”
“I’m tired today, dear. But tomorrow, let’s go for a walk.”
“Okay, Mr. Henderson,” she replied, knowing surely now that today he would die.