I remember when I was a child my grandmother died. I visited her in hospice. It felt like she lived there forever, but it must have only been a short time. This is how life is when you are young: minutes last hours and a year takes a decade to complete. I remember going to visit her. I remember hard candy gone stale taking hours to dissolve in my mouth when I visited. Hard peppermint candies and Werther’s. Each evening they would read the evening prayers over the loudspeaker. We weren’t Catholic and never have been, but this was a Catholic hospice. There was a harp player once and an old organ I discovered somewhere. I wondered what kind of warbling it would make if I turned it on. It didn’t sound very interesting to a twelve year old. I was hoping it sounded like a Hammond B3. There was a potted plant that my father told me was a hemp plant. I knew only vaguely what this meant.
Shortly before she died, I went in to visit alone and she thought I was my father, her mind having begun to withdraw from this world. She asked about the dog and for me to make sure that it was inside and safe. The dog had been dead for 40 years. Her hands were frail and eyes placid. I felt her clammy touch. I would shut myself out of this world of death by putting on headphones and praying that the double-A’s would keep my Walkman going until we could leave.
The evening that she died my mother asked me if I wanted to go and see the body. My father had to go take receipt of it. I just thought of the dead dog I had never known, thought of my grandmother I had never known very well, thought of the potted plant and the crappy organ. I did not go to see her body.