My mother lies quietly in the hospital bed that has replaced her regular bed, now that she can no longer get up on her own. Every day she stares at the TV, appearing to watch it with interest. When I come into her room, she smiles and tries to say hello–in a voice that is barely a whisper. Her eyes sparkle a little. In my own discomfort, I begin asking simple questions, hoping to elicit a simple answer. She stares at me, then she stares above me, looking intently at the ceiling.
In my mind, I “know” that people nearing the end of life often stare at walls, at ceilings or out of windows. Supposedly, they are seeing loved ones who have passed on already, who are beckoning them, encouraging them to let go and come to a place where there is no more pain or sadness or sorrow.
So I ask her, “What do you see?” and wait anxiously for a description of a little glimpse into heaven. I am grateful to be able to share this part of her journey. But she does not respond, so I assume she is truly enthralled by the apparitions that she surely must be seeing.
I quietly ask again, “What are you looking at? What do you see?” Then she looks in my direction and says, “The ceiling.” It’s not the answer I was expecting, but it makes me laugh! And even though I didn’t hear something profound, I did hear laughter. And sometimes laughter is all you can hope for…