The dining room beyond was another story. Here sat the various members of the clan brought together for the first time in ten years. Most of the chairs in the house had been brought here, with lemonade, finger sandwiches, chips, and iced tea on the dining table. A shabby arrangement of wildflowers still adorned its center.
The quiet small talk faded away when Sarah entered the room and the eyes of each individual swiveled in their way to look in her direction. Some caught her eye, some gazed in her direction, a few saw only her sunflower sandals.
“I want to thank you all for coming, and for granting me the last few minutes to gather my courage.” Sarah’s voice was steady and even. Its lyrical quality presaged what was to come, if anyone had been listening. A tiny crinkle caught her nose as she looked purposely at each of the guests in turn.
“I am dying, as surely from the treatments as from the disease.” She held up her clutch in one hand to stay any dissenting voice.
“I have told Dr. Haberman that I will no longer darken his door. I have always wanted to see the pyramids. My flight leaves the Cities at 6.”
Sam, the most rigid of the nephews burst almost on top of her last syllable, “You can’t!”
“Oh, my dear Sam, I certainly can.”
“But, Grandma,” Janine, the oldest and always most practical, said. “How will you get around?”
Sam, of course, did not stop either, “No! You can’t stop your treatments! Nobody stops!”
Now smiling broadly, seeing the various levels of consternation she had caused, Sarah raised her other hand. The room stilled into respectful silence, Sam fidgeting and suddenly interested in his shoes. Dora, the shy one, clenched and unclenched her fists. Daniel sat as if shot full of botox, not a muscle moving, eyes locked on Sarah.
“Lincoln will come with me. I’ve never sat still for 60 years. I don’t want to die lying on a hospital bed. Look at me!” She paused to give them time to adhere to her demand and caught each of them with her pale blue eyes.
“Life is a gift. Along the way you have all given me gifts that I cherish, that I take with me everywhere I go. And I thank you for every single one. But now I need to take one last path, one more adventure, for me.”
Dora and Daniel nodded. A tear rolled down Tiffany’s face. Jeremy just stood and gave Sarah a hug. Each, in his or her own way, knew this decision was uniquely Sarah. They knew she would be unshakeable in her resolve.
Sam tried once more, halfheartedly, “Will you think about it?”
To which she replied, after Jeremy released her, with a quiet, “No, dear, that’s already been done.”
Janine was now hugging her, whispering, “The Road Less Travelled, Grandma. Enjoy the journey.”
Then came Tiffany, sniffling; Daniel, stoic; and Sam, annoyance still on his face but knowing better than to argue any more. Dora was last.
Dora’s hazel eyes, small and soft, were crystal clear. She looked directly into the depths of Sarah’s eyes and, seeing what she wanted to see, nodded ever so slightly. Dora then wrapped her arms around the older woman and squeezed her tight, like she would never let go.
“You are the bravest, grandma,” she whispered. “And an inspiration. I love you. Have a wonderful trip.”
Then, in an instant, she released her grip and was gone. Sarah stood, alone, in the dining room and smiled to herself. We are all the same, for all our differences. Dora understood completely.
Me as a critic (be careful! the harshness will be well concealed!)