I turned on Pandora as I was getting dressed. Desperado came on. It was like she was bursting to get through to me after I unceremoniously severed our connection two nights earlier.
"It's so beautiful" was one of the last sentences I ever heard out of her mouth. There was no beautiful goodbye like you see in the movies. Everything had seemed sudden and rushed, then dragged out to an agonizing slowness where nothing was happening, but nothing was being accomplished either. And then it was over. Even with my grandfather I had been brought in to say goodbye. He had looked me in the eyes and told me how proud he was of me and how much he loved me. It was heartbreaking, but it was perfect closure. We said goodbye and it was over. Shortly after he was gone.
This didn't end that way. One day she wasn't feeling well enough for Thanksgiving and the next she was incoherent and being rushed into hospice. Not even with it enough to say goodbye to the house. Or the cat. Or anything that we built our lives around and cherished. Not even us.
There weren't many words. The entirety of our family taking over the hospice center brought in enough words for the whole building. But she stayed silent.
She lay sunken in bed, barely a person. A wisp of herself. She'd finally lost that weight. How pleased she'd be if she knew. Her hair was gone again too. She always insisted she looked like Gollum. Now that the sickness had destroyed her from the inside it was making it's way out. Just like the cancer had sucked up all her life force it was now taking her color, her air, her personhood.
I had been ordered by a relative to buy her those fancy noise cancelling headphones. You know the ones, they cost about the same as a car payment. I would have spent anything to make her feel an ounce of comfort at that point. The headphones engulfed her small head and took her away to some other dimension. The Eagles had released their final album just in time. Two discs. It was immediately added to her mix of Don Henley, Eagles, Don Henley, more Eagles. "It's so beautiful," she sighed. The first coherent sentence I had heard from her. It anchored her, for just a little longer, to our world.
The radio started to get static-y as I entered the tunnel. I switched to the CD player and Glenn Frey's voice filled my car. I was on the edge. Of what I was not sure, but something had changed in me and the seams that held me together had started bursting apart faster than I could stitch them back together. The music started to fill my head and all I could hear was "it's so beautiful."
I slammed my palm into the off switch and started convulsing with sobs. "It's so beautiful." I don't care. I hit eject. I fumbled around, pushing a new album in. Anything to fill the blank space. Pop music. Alt rock. Anything else.
The next day or so I built a hard shell around myself. It didn't fix the broken stitches, but it kept everything from falling out. Pandora was not used. The radio stayed on z-100, I listened to awful songs about Taylor Swift's ex-boyfriends. Safe music. White noise. Unconsciously I turned on Pandora while getting ready for work. Desperado filled the space around me. It sucked in all the air in the room. Everything else went quiet.
She slammed her palm on the button, you will hear me. I am here. I am here. You think I'm gone. But I am here.