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Birdsong and Grief

When my mother was dying at home I would sit with her in the living room of her one bedroom apartment. She would recline in her red lazy boy chair facing the television, and I would curl up on the couch and watch her every move. I noticed as the days passed that her skin was becoming smoother and her hair was changing from kinky tight curls to being straight and silky and white as light. I became fascinated by her hair, that it was changing right before my eyes. Black women can be obsessed with our hair. My mother would dye her hair often. It was white, then blond, then shades of red and when she got sick with Cancer, she was freed from this obsession and let her hair do its thing, which was to turn straight and white.

She never lost her hair like many Cancer patients experience, instead it just became almost translucent like the sun, or a jellyfish, or a strand of thread that never ends.

Mommy and I would sit together in the quiet stillness of each day. I would play the sounds of nature from an app on my phone. We would listen to birds singing and streams of water flowing in a river and both of us would drift off to sleep. My mother loved the sounds of nature while she was dying. She would say, Phoenix, play those birds for me again. And so I would play the sounds of birds whose names I did not know. Chirp, chirp, coo, coo these were the sounds of the soundtrack of our last days together.

The birds would play while my heart was breaking into little pieces. At times, I couldn’t move. I would feel frozen listening to the birds thinking they are witnessing my grief, they are witnessing mommy’s transition. Sometimes, I would wake up in the middle of the night full of fear and jump up and run to her bed. I would put my head on her chest and listen deeply for the sound of her heartbeat. But, I could only hear the sounds of the birds, calling mommy home.

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