CREDOS: No compassion — I

Arthur Magida

The day my mother was transferred from a nursing home to a hospice, I raced from Baltimore to north-eastern Pennsylvania. This 80-mph excursion into death — my mother’s death — might rescue me from whatever boredom and tedium had enveloped me, but it would also plunge me into a realm where I didn’t necessarily relish going. But go I went. For you see, there was no choice.

Arriving at the hospice, I finally found my mother’s room, then paused briefly in the doorway, not quite ready to enter. After a few minutes, I caught my mother’s eye. With a finger curved from years of arthritis, she motioned me toward her. Approaching her bed, I bent down. I didn’t want to miss what might be her final words, words of wisdom or longing or regret or love, words that could rival the most poignant deathbed scene of the most melodramatic (or the most cornball) film. Indeed, this could be a true moment of reconciliation, of empathy, of demolishing the walls of distance and reserve that had risen between us over the years--walls that belied all the enviable myths and fables about mothers and sons, stories that I knew were true (at some level) because I saw, occasionally, mothers and sons getting along as mothers and sons were intended to.

As I stooped at her bedside, I saw her summon her strength. I waited, and then came her last verdict of me.

“You have no compassion,” she rasped out, syllable by syllable, wagging her bent finger more or less in my direction. “All you care about is the money.”

That was the last I heard from her. Shutting her eyes, she slid into a coma. It was late afternoon. —