Two weeks ago I lost a friend from grade school. She had an absolutely awful death, no peace at all. She fought it like the Taliban would fight, oh, I don’t know, lard-fried chicken chomped by Israelis waving American flags. I really have no clue. I wasn’t there, I spoke to her on the phone a few hours before she died. They’d just applied a morphine patch. She’d been taken to a place on Long Island called “The Hospice Inn,” ostensibly to lessen her calcium and something else which were at toxic levels. She’d been sick for six years, raised a daughter (now nine) in an amazing and hands-on fashion, loved her husband, went to work every single freaking day. More radiation and chemo and transfusions than I could certainly count. She did not want to die, this was no Zen retreat, she fought like the pit bulls my dog-rescue friends swear don’t exist. She wanted to still exist. She did not want to go. When I called her, the morphine patch was new on her skin. We had a conversation and she wanted me to hear what she had to say. I couldn’t really understand her. I spoke, spritely and perky and repeating my name and my friends’ names, Honey it’s Anne Brenda Kerrie Lauren and I love you so much, we love you, just rest, honey it’s Anne Kerrie Lauren Brenda and she listened to me. Then she spoke, and I couldn’t understand her. She liked to talk. She was quite a talker, in the good sense of that expression. She kept on talking, she had things she wanted to say. Then she paused, I said more Anne Lauren Brenda Kerrie, she listened, she resumed talking. Then her sister took the phone. Her sister, high school star of musical theater, whose Bonne Bell lipsmackers my friend and I pillaged in sixth grade. Thanks to Facebook the past — the lipsmackers, the Waltons lunchbox my friend carried, the dust in the ruffles of her sister’s canopy bed — slams back to me. The past is easy to smell, it juts into you like an elbow on the subway I don’t ride anymore because I live in California. My friend did not want to die. This was no serene scene, no midwifery of death as people I know working in hospice have declaimed. It was total and complete and unmitigated fucking hell and I am sick that she is dead.
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