Saturday, February 11, 2012


I read somewhere that hearing is the last sense to go. It’s true because I can still hear. I can’t see.  I can’t open my eyes.  I can’t talk.  So I lay here, hearing.
                When this all started I could still see. The doctor with the gray, bristly moustache, looking worried. The nurses, one red-head, one blonde with her hair pulled up in a pony tail that swished back and forth as she bent to start my IV’s and hook up my monitor. She smelled like soap, minty and clean. I could still smell. And feel. The IV hurt going in.
                “Got an eighteen in the antecube,” said the blonde nurse.
                “Hang dopamine. Get another line.” Doctor talking. Atropine. Epi.
                “Need a 7.5 endo.” Someone is pushing something down my throat. I hear a machine pulsing next to my head.
                “Call a code.” Who said that? I can’t see clearly.  Everything is misty gray. Heavy fog.
                “Charging. Two hundred. Everyone clear.”
                Two hundred what?
                Incredible pain in my chest.  Like lightning, an electric shock.
                “Charging three hundred. Everyone clear.” I can hear that.
                Three hundred what? I can’t see. I can’t smell the soapy smell of the nurse.
                “Charging three sixty. Everyone clear.” I feel nothing.
                Then I hear “Nothing. Time of death, 3:40 pm.”
                The deep voice I hear now is Mr. Mortimer. He’s the owner and director. The other voice, higher, is the young man I saw vacuuming the hall carpet while I sat with Mr. Mortimer. 
                I was an event planner.  Back then.  I told Mr. Mortimer that when I planned my own event with him.  We were in his office.  A very sedate office with dark furniture.  Of course, what would you expect in the office of a funeral director?  Wood floor. Cherry?  A nice Persian carpet with blues and greens. Walls a pale, corn silk yellow. A large blue and white Oriental vase in the corner with blue hydrangea that looked real.  They weren’t, though. Some things are real. Some things just look like they are.
                What’s he saying?  The background organ music is faint.  It’s turned down low, real low. I hope it’s not Amazing Grace, for heaven’s sake.  I put Rock of Ages on my list.  Wait! It is Rock of Ages.  He got it right.  He followed my list.
                My list was complete, no detail omitted. What cosmetics to use and I even gave him a supply. Bisque foundation, cream based delicate rouge, pink lip tint. A photograph of me so he could have my hair arranged the way I like it. A creamy long-sleeved silk Ralph Lauren blouse with lace along the neck line and at the wrists. I watched him hang that in a closet. Of course, it was in a monogramed garment bag with my initials for Deborah Olivia Armstrong. A necklace of perfect small seed pearls that have just a tint of pink.  A good event planner never forgets even the smallest detail.  I never did.  Any event I planned was perfect.  I did all types. Twenty-fifth silver anniversary parties. Weddings and receptions. Baby and bridal showers.  My planning was always perfect.  At least on my end. That’s what I said to him that day.
                “Oh?” Mr. Mortimer said, with his eyebrows raised. So I had to tell him what could go wrong at an event.
                “People,” I said. “People can ruin events. Every time. Brides spill red wine on their gowns before the ceremony.  Grooms smash wedding cake into the bride’s face. Oh, there are stories! Like the surprise twenty-fifth silver anniversary party the grown children planned but the parents, the honorees, didn’t show because they were at the lawyer’s getting a divorce.”
                He smiled and nodded as I talked.  He didn’t say anything but I knew he understood.
                He helped me choose a casket.  I didn’t like anything he had in stock so he showed me his catalogue. What a high level catalogue, very impressive.  Burgundy leather, smooth to the touch, with laminated pages.  I chose the Sunset Bronze model with rounded corners and a soft velvet almond interior.  That would be a good background for my silk blouse.
                Of course I paid him for everything. The flowers (white roses with Maidenhair ferns and Baby’s Breath) were already pre-ordered and paid for at the florist right next to the funeral home. I gave Mr. Mortimer the receipt for the flowers as proof of payment.  I own a plot at Allegheny Cemetery on the North Slope, facing the Allegheny River. I gave him a map showing my plot location and a ground’s map. I opted for an angel statue as a head stone; the cemetery had it in storage. I owed it to myself to plan my own final event. That’s why I chose Mr. Mortimer. His reputation was excellent in the community. Event planning every detail.
         What’s he saying? Something about me being an event planner.  I can’t hear every word, wish he would come closer. He’s saying something about people.
                The boy’s voice is louder. “That’s a strange thing to say.  People ruin events?”
                I can’t make out Mr. Mortimer’s answer.
                It must not yet be viewing hours.  I don’t hear any voices except Mr. Mortimer and his assistant.
             They’re coming closer.  Their footsteps are soft on the carpet.
                “Time to lock up,” Mr. Mortimer said.
                Lock up? Already?
                “I’m surprised nobody came to the viewing,” said the assistant.
                The viewing was over? I heard a lock turning with a click.
                Mr. Mortimer must be walking near me, his voice is louder. “I gave her what she wanted. A perfect event.”
               “How so?”
                “I put her death notices in newspapers on the other side of the state.”
                “So no one would come. She planned a perfect event. I didn’t want it ruined by people.”
                Oh, didn’t I choose him well!
                Their footsteps faded away and I heard a final click of another door being locked.
                There was nothing left to hear.


  1. How did I miss this one? Oh, I know, I was in China when posted it. Wonderful and poignant.