Christmas Spirit

The days pass in daze, requiring little of me. All I need do is wait while young caregivers rush down the corridors with harassed expressions, pushing wheelchairs, carrying trays, readjusting this and that in their haste. It doesn't concern me.

And even if it does, hear this: I am too tired to care.

In the distance – somewhere – faint Christmas carols are playing. December must have arrived again, so soon, how strange. It seems only last week that Jonathon was in here with his new exam results, awkwardly explaining the new qualification systems. Or was that Debbie? Faces are but a blur to me, although I can always identify my relatives. They hold my hand with such tenderness.

I open my eyes to one of the nurses bustling around my bed, clad in a plain blue frock, her chestnut hair tight in a bun. "Morning, Margaret…" she mutters in my direction, gathering garments from my dresser. It is cold; I want to sleep. With a sigh, I drift back into blessed oblivion.

There are now three figures in my room. Two lean over me, swinging my body to the edge of the bed and readying to transfer me onto the toilet. I struggle against the womyn, desiring the deadening warmth of my blankets, unusually interested in the remaining person observing me.

"Margaret," one of them declares, "it's time to get up!"

Their grinning faces anger me, both smug and tall, making me slap the youngest angrily. A smile falls off her features, now etched with disappointment, while the other rebukes me then talks softly to her companion over my head. I close my eyes again and wish for an ending. Jonathon wouldn't treat me with such disrespect. Debbie raised him a good boy.

"Margaret," comes another voice, "open your mouth!" I ignore the command, vaguely wondering what time it is. Breakfast, morning tea, lunch… we are always being fed here. I am sick of it, although it is not my intention to cough all over the young girl feeding me. And while she only shrugs and replaces her apron, I feel horribly ashamed and a single tear drops from my better eye. Another nurse joins her worriedly, brushing wisps of white hair off my forehead. 

I try to block the memory, and the days flow by.

On Christmas Eve, my breathing feels sharper than usual, but I ignore the sensation that has been plaguing me for the past week. Someone takes my hand beside the bedspread, and whispers: "It's time to come home." I smile. This is why I like the holidays – they mean more visitors for me.

Still, there is something not quite right here. The hand clutching mine is cold, not tender. I try to look up, recognising the figure present in my room from a fortnight past. But the ice spreads. I cannot console the nurse who walks into my empty room, biting back tears as she feels for a pulse no longer there.

And even if I could, hear this: it is not yet her place to know.