The 18th of December was her last day;
she neither knew the date nor cared to.
Gathered at the hospital, keeping vigil,
we couldn't overcome her fright, or ours.
The pain, too great to be driven away,
was only "managed" with IV drips,
needles stuck in bruised appendages --
bony things -- arms and legs, hands and feet.
Above the medicines and washes, we sniffed
her scent, which, more than her yet familiar
face, to us identified our mother --
a smell we never would mistake
for any other. It went quickly
as her body cooled. The rouged and pickled
carcass they displayed was more a statue
than a person. We planned to bury her
with homely tokens, like an ancient mummy:
a family photo, a brooch she liked,
a pink hairbrush, and the brass bell she rang
to call her keeper during her last years.
But, when the time came, I could not bear
to see her leave so finally;
I took the bell from her metal box.
And, now, I ring it -- not to bring a keeper,
but to recall my mother on her birthday,
and on many dark days when I need her.