JANN EVERARD // 22
MEMENTO MORI W
hen Lea described what happened, she said the sound of the bird striking the window was like a clap of thunder, and she leaped off the couch in alarm. She didn’t say the sound was like gunshot because she’d never heard real gunshot and couldn’t be sure how it sounded. She had heard shots on TV, but there were many things on TV that couldn’t be trusted, and she was trying to be honest. By then, she’d concluded honesty was something she should cling to. And because she was trying to be honest, she explained why she’d been lying on the sofa when the bird struck. She’d just returned from the hospital where she’d expected to pick up her mother, whose infection had healed. Instead, she’d found her mom curled into a tight comma, unable to speak or move her limbs. “Yeah, I think she had a stroke,” said the nurse Lea found down the hall when she went searching for help. Despite Lea’s plea that the nurse call a doctor immediately, the nurse appeared in no hurry.
t wasn’t the first bird to hit the window, which was high up in the room near the cathedral ceiling, too high to reach even by ladder. Each time a bird smacked into it, Lea planned to attach stickers shaped like owls or raptors meant to deter birds from flying into the glass. But then she forgot about the stickers until the next time she heard a crash. She dreaded stepping outside, knowing she would find the bird in the driveway either dead already or worse—stunned, broken, and in the throes of death. She waited an hour, knowing that she didn’t have it in her to put the creature out of its misery, hoping that an hour was enough for it to either gather itself and fly away or expire. She was imaginative enough that in that hour she contemplated how someone with more compassion or fortitude might end the bird’s life mercifully, but the thought of holding it under water in a bucket or braining it with a loose brick made bile rise in her throat. This was the reason she’d never owned a cat or dog. Inevitably, it would come to the point where
the animal would have to be euthanized; euthanizing a creature in pain was what responsible pet owners did.
doctor performed a cursory examination of Lea’s mother after pulling her body straight: scratching the soles of her feet, raising her arms and letting them fall back on the bed, peering into her eyes with a penlight. He ordered a scan, checked his phone, and said he’d know more later. Twice he asked Lea to confirm her relationship to the patient, and once he asked whether Lea’s mother had prepared any advance directives or signed a DNR order. Lea said her mom had assigned her as legal representative for health and that the documents were safe at home in her office. She did not tell the doctor her mom’s clear wish never to be a burden to Lea, or that she did not want to be institutionalized for her personal care, or have any tube inserted down her throat to keep her alive. This was information Lea had filed away mentally, hoping she would not have to act on it. Instead, she told the doctor she would sit at the bedside until the test results were ready. Throughout this interaction, Lea smoothed her mom’s flyaway hair, trying to make her look wellgroomed, as if she had plans for the day. The permed hairs were dyed chestnut, and although Lea couldn’t remember their real colour, she planned to cut off a curl using the pair of scissors on the bedside table as soon as the doctor was gone. She’d tuck the curl in her purse in the spare envelope she always kept there. Her mom’s dark eyes stayed fixed on the ceiling, and Lea was tempted to poke her into showing some sign of life so that the doctor would stop speaking in grievous tones about the likelihood the damage was extensive and a full recovery improbable, even if her mother survived the next few days. When the nurse flicked the curtain closed around the bed, Lea winced at the rattle of the hangers on the metal rod. Her mom’s face seemed so hairless and youthful compared to her own. She ran a finger along the cheekbones and murmured, “I’m so sorry, Mom. I know this is not what