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Who knows when you say goodbye, if it will be for the last time? In all of the thousands one says in a lifetime, how can you know which one means the end?

Unless, of course, you do know – your sole purpose for flying in from out-of-town after months of not seeing each other is to see each other, one last time.

Walking into the waiting room, somber faces of family and friends wondering if the end is near for the one they love. Tentatively making plans for a future that will never come.

Laughter and everyday chatter seems so out of place. The sounds of machines, beeps and whirs and wisps of air –
cries of fear –
cries of pain and loss –
sniffles from red, raw noses –
muffled voices –
trying to come to terms with reality.

A reality that doesn’t include the person, so loved, lying in that small bed covered in sterile blankets, gauze and medical tape – attached to tubes and sensors and wires and bags – she’s wafting away.

Bright yellow, cheerful walls. Wooden framed portraits of an autumn that will never fall upon her eyes again. Serene view of fog-filled sky over the Hudson River, houses climbing the hillside, sky-rises standing tall and proud, trees without leaves – but they’ll be back.

She won’t.

We visit, we talk, though there’s not much to say.
Can’t say, “Get well.”
Can’t say, “Take care of yourself.”
Can say, “It’s so good to see you.” And it is! And when it’s time to go –
time to say goodbye –

She is awake, alert, sitting up in bed.
Give a hug –
Blow a kiss –
So glad we got to see her like this, knowing the end will probably come quick.
And no matter how much we question:
We’ve come to accept this will be our last goodbye.

— For O.H.