The Day She Died

The breath-gasping day she died:
I remember those high cheek-bones
And caved-in body--
A battlefield of cancer and radiation
And chemotherapy.

"I want to die with dignity,"
She'd often said in that 14-year
Curse as final as Adam's bite.

She'd been a nurse for decades, seen people die
In their own feces and urine.
"Pitiful sight," she'd said.
"Absolutely pitiful."

How I remember that caved-in body!--
Stooped, bowed, thin as spider-legs,
Wobbling to the bathroom,
To the bathroom!--and
Her mother, her old, aching mother,
Helping her, holding her,
Helplessly holding her up.

She wiped herself.
All by herself.
Then she returned to the juice-stained sheets
Of the hospital bed,
And died
Thirty minutes later.

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