My mother died while I was sleeping. It was two in the morning when Dad called to say “She’s gone.” She died at the Portage General Hospital in our hometown, at the age of 77. It was a long way from where she grew up, and it was a long way from where I awoke, rolled over and picked up the receiver. The immediate cause was lung cancer, and also emphysema. Her last words to me over the phone were “I love you too son.” I was weeping by then, heaving, alone in my office. Dumb. “I always loved you,” I had said inexplicably, like it had been in doubt. It had been a few weeks since I had surgery on my spine to correct some degenerated discs. I was still recovering and could not fly home to be with her before she died. Our phone call was mostly one-sided; me talking, Mum groaning. Through her moaning, she was able to say goodbye to me. I told her about my favorite memory as she listened, about how one winter night we sat in a department store in one of those lunchette booths watching the parade of people go by, fat snowflakes in the dark nightscape, and how I remember it because she told me something important, but it was something although I would never forget it, could not remember what she said.
I don’t remember the moment of her death. It was a telephone, after all. I simply placed it back in its cradle and rolled back over onto the bed. Dyan probably held me. The dogs probably licked at my face. I can only guess. I don’t even remember if I fell back asleep. I might have.