This post will fail the SEO analysis for many reasons, the first of which is the post won’t repeat my focus phrase (send off) or include “Send Off” in any header.

Does everything I write need to tick off a third party’s boxes? Nope. Even if they purportedly have my best interest in mind, nope.

This post is for nurses aides, who, without much fanfare or thanks, float in like angels to help patients and their families. And sometimes—as was the case with us—they are the last ones, the ones who are there for the final send off.

The Send Off

We knock and enter without waiting,
Floating in on a flood of light, beams like slivers of ethereal slate.
Good morning
Good morning
Yes, what a good morning
Ritual of hands arranging tools, our eyes seek hello.
Good morning.
We make contact with green eyes, blue in the beams.
How are we doing? like a song from our lips, lilting, clear.
Lullaby, close your eyes…
Our hands float over tools and bed and body, gloves quietly over fingers.
With gentle ceremony, she is prepared,
Sacrament of oils and unguents.
Caress, massage, never looking away as our hands work the forehead,
gently clearing the delicate crust on the lashes.
Our fingers glide along the ridges of nose, cheek, and chin, then the neck and shoulders.
I love you, a bushel and a peck, a bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck.
Did she smile?
Deep breath, hands and blankets synchronize the next movement,
And we turn for a moment to ask, “So, that new grandbaby? How is she?”
Priscilla holds her phone so we can see as we pull more butters from a jar.
“She’s beautiful,”
the only thing to say about a plum of a human, fresh, new, plump, eager.
‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free…
We lift her, slurry of lotion, cloud of powder,
and slip a fresh gown over thin shoulders that carry the weight of eight decades.
“Eight days old!” Priscilla announces.
We gently lower her precious head of thinning hair on a fresh pillow,
hands floating to smooth the deep green gown,
then the feet,
working oils into the calves, around the ankles, between the toes.
This little piggy went to market…
Our hands slip the blanket into place,
secure corners,
gloves pop from fingers.
“Let me see that baby again.”
You are my sunshine, my only sunshine…
We lean over to say goodbye.
Eyes still. Bluer even.
Our hand rests on the chest as we lean closer.
“She’s gone, Ms. Priscilla.”
We keep a moment, just for the three of us, before we call Mr. John.
Twinkle, twinkle, little star, How I wonder what you are!
We wait, our bag of tools hanging from one hand,
the other holding hers,
still warm and soft.
When it’s time,
a rush of beams through the door follows us out,
one last time.
This is our last time.
We carry the weight of the visit to the next.
Our hands are heavy with knowing,
we were her last comfort.
Our voice and songs tight in our throat,
ours were the last to penetrate her ears.
Our eyes stinging, lashes moist,
ours were the last to lock with hers.
And in the flood of light that follows us out,
we’re washed with a knowing that is love.
Our heart lifts,
and we carry the light to the next visit.
©Pennie Nichols. All Rights Reserved. 2023