Waiting to Die

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Waiting to Die

by, Melissa R. Mendelson

I knew he was going to die. I could feel it in my bones. I said I wanted to see him one last time, and those words cut my heart open. I almost cried in front of my fellow college students, hardly friends, and they wouldn’t understand anyway. I just knew. I had to see him one last time.

It was a cold, dark December night. My fellow college students were planning a farewell party for me. This was it. My turn to say good-bye. Come January, I would transfer to my father’s choice for a four-year college, a college I would hate, and I didn’t want to leave. I made so many mistakes, hurt so many people, but I had to go. It was my turn, but for a distraction, a friend offered to take me to see my grandfather. One last time.

His eyes were closed. He was dreaming, but his tossing and turning was an echo of whatever nightmare held him captive. And this nursing home was a nightmare. I stood beside the bed for a moment, and then I stepped away. My friend was waiting outside, checking his watch, and then my grandfather raised his hand in the air as if to grab me by the arm. To this day, I regret not taking it, and as I left, I knew. I knew I would not see him again.

December 24, 1999. We got the phone call late at night. My uncle called. He never went to that place. Neither did my father, but my father was not the one, who put his father there. And it killed me that my grandfather died there, but what hurt the most was that he died from the flu. I had a slight case of the flu, my third bout. Was it my fault that he died?

I never liked nursing homes. The thought of it gave me the creeps. My mother’s father went to a beautiful one with a garden. He hated it, but what he really hated was not having his freedom. He didn’t have a choice. Sometimes, you don’t, but in the end, he came to live with my cousin and died surrounded by family, love. His wife, my grandmother didn’t have that chance. She died too soon in an I.C.U. on Long Island, and when I went to say good-bye, she held on until I did. But I never got to say good-bye to my grandfather, my mother’s father, or my father’s mother, my grandmother, who died in her nursing home in Plainview.

My mother rested in her bed. Her covers were drawn up to her chin, and the blinds were closed, keeping her in the dark. All she had to do was go to a doctor, but she refused. She was afraid and stubborn. Her life depended on it, but she gave up too easily. She allowed the past to eat her alive, and sometimes, I am guilty of the same. But I have a choice. Unlike my grandparents, my father’s parents and my mother’s parents, she has a choice, but she remained in bed, waiting to die.


Written 10/16/12.

Created: Mar 22, 2014


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