THE WAITING ROOM
by Anne K. Edwards
“I don’t understand,” Sonia wept softly into her
father’s arms. “I don’t understand. Mom was only forty-four. How can she be
“Darlin’, your Momma lived a full life. She was happy,
right to the end.” Thomas Dennis patted his daughter’s shoulder.
Behind them, leaning against the wall, Marty Conners
watched. It was the same every time someone was lost to those who loved them.
He’d seen tears enough to fill buckets shed as adults and children cried out
He straightened and glided toward the door, knowing
they’d never notice him. He went along the hall, passing the nurses’ station
with all their buttons, lights and charts. Reading off the room numbers, he
stopped before room thirty-one. This was where Arlene Dennis had died.
Her body still occupied the bed, but the machines that
had monitored her life were silent, standing like sentinels around her, waiting.
He nodded. Yes, they waited as he waited. And he didn’t know why any more than
“Who are you?” a soft voice spoke from the
dimness to his left.
“I’m Marty Dennis. I just came to see if there
was anything I could do.”
The speaker slipped into the light. “No,” she said,
“There’s nothing to be done now. It’s over.”
“Why are you here?” Marty asked.
“I don’t really know. I guess I’m waiting until
someone comes for...” She pointed to the body in the bed.
“Was it painless at the end?” He looked at the body.
The woman did look peaceful now, but when he’d visited before, she’d been
ravaged with pain. Now, the deep creases in her face had smoothed and she looked
The woman from the shadows said, “Yes, there was no
pain. The doctor made sure of that.” Her voice waivered. “Why couldn’t they have
done that months ago? Why all that suffering? Why?”
Marty shook his head. “I don’t know.” He gestured to
the door. “Do you want to wait outside?”
She nodded. “Yes.”
She followed him along the hall to the waiting
room. At the door, she hesitated.
“Come in. They’ll never know we’re here.”
“Sonia is crying so hard. I never thought she cared
that much.” She looked at the couple on the bench.
Marty gave a smile of encouragement.
The door opened and a tall, thin man joined the man
and his daughter. “Mr. Dennis? I’m John Calvin, the hospital grief counselor.”
He put out his hand.
Thomas Dennis stood and, keeping one hand on his
daughter’s shoulder, shook hands with Mr. Calvin. “I’m not sure what you can do
for us,” he said. “We knew it was coming. It was just a matter of days, then
Sonia turned her teary face to them. “I don’t
understand,” she said again. “That old woman who was in the room with her last
week--you know who I mean, Daddy--the woman was almost eighty. She had a stroke,
but she got better. Her family took her home yesterday. But Mom died today.
“An aneurism is dangerous at any time. And the surgery
to fix one found in the brain is extremely risky.” Mr. Calvin looked at her, his
face gentle, creased from long hours of trying to help grieving family and
friends of the lost. “Your mother knew this.”
Mr. Dennis patted Sonia’s shoulder again. “Your Momma
knew the odds, Darlin’. She told me to tell you that. She said there was no
choice. The doctor told us it could burst at any time.”
Sonia bowed her head. She said nothing more.
Marty and the lady from the shadows listened quietly
as the tragic scene played itself out. Tears glistened in her eyes too.
He pitied them all. They could do nothing to ease the
Dennis’ pain or the sorrow that he knew the counselor shared with them. And this
lady, too, had to work through her pain.
There’d be others to follow the Dennises, others who’d
sit and wait for news and when it came, they’d be shedding tears, waiting for
the pain to pass.
The waiting room was aptly named, he thought.
Especially on this floor that housed the cancer patients, those who’d suffered
head trauma, or heart attack and weren’t expected to live. It was a floor where
shadows walked, where death visited all too often.
He shook his head to empty such thoughts. How much
longer would he be waiting here?
Soon, the Dennises rose and followed Mr. Calvin out.
Sonia had stopped weeping and wiped her face. She glanced back as the lady from
the shadows touched her arm.
“Bless you, child,” the lady said.
She, too, had stopped crying. Her eyes were dry and a
sad smile formed on her mouth. “Will they find peace?” she asked.
Marty smiled. “Yes, they’ll go on with their lives.
One day the pain will lessen and they’ll remember with love.”
“I hope so. There’s so much left unsaid, so many things
“That’s the way it must be sometimes,” he said.
“What happens now?” she asked.
“We wait,” he said.
Marty shook his head. “I’m never sure. Sometimes it’s
only minutes, other times, it seems like forever. We wait here in the waiting