Death's Waiting Room (flash fiction)

Bernice carefully placed the cup she was holding on her tray, and then silently left the dining room.  She had eaten half of her regular lunch of turkey on rye.  Her gait was slow but steady, and she was grateful that she only needed a cane in the sea of walkers and wheelchairs. 

Bernice had been sitting alone, as she often did at lunchtime, and her exit went mostly unnoticed.  Hillary gave her a passing glance as she finished off the last of her chocolate cake, but Hillary’s memory was like a footprint at high tide.
 
Bernice thought of heading for the door, but she knew that she had nowhere to go.  She was stuck in this place.  She thought of it as death’s waiting room.
 
Bernice Alison Foster had been living at Parkview for eleven months.  It was enough time to see all of the seasons from her third floor window.  It was long enough to feel like she knew the family that lived in the house across the street.  She saw them more often than her own children. 
 
As she sat in her recliner, day after day, she watched them.  She didn’t know their names, and they didn’t know that she was looking, but their presence was a comfort.  The blue lights they hung on the weeping willow last Sunday reminded her of the Christmas long ago when Ben had surprised her with tree lights on the day she came home from the hospital with Jake.
 
Bernice railed against the routine, and the loneliness, and the incompetence.  There were staff at Parkview whom she loved, but most of them didn’t see her. They didn’t see any of them.
 
The staff saw bodily functions and moods. They saw what age had done to bodies and minds.  But like Bernice, everyone here had an internal life, filled with memories and regrets, and the need to be seen. 
 
As Bernice approached her room, she wondered if it was almost time for lunch. 

6 comments

  • Steve

    Steve Broomall, PA

    "There were staff at Parkview whom she loved, but most of them didn’t see her. They didn’t see any of them." Writing comment - a little pronoun-y. Also, what a kicker at the end! Oooff!

    "There were staff at Parkview whom she loved, but most of them didn’t see her. They didn’t see any of them."
    Writing comment - a little pronoun-y.

    Also, what a kicker at the end! Oooff!

  • Denise

    Denise

    Hey Steve. Thanks for reading along. I see you are a fellow word person. Feedback always welcome. I am glad the end resonated with you. Much appreciated...

    Hey Steve. Thanks for reading along. I see you are a fellow word person. Feedback always welcome. I am glad the end resonated with you. Much appreciated...

  • harry

    harry maine

    tears collected as i read. this story is so sadly real for so many people i know here. i have a dear friend who's wife of 50 plus years doesnt know him as anyone other than the man who stops by everyday and annoys her. my own mother sits quietly in her 'waiting room', not interacting with anyone. she has no friends in her world and just waits for one of her children to call. it's all so sad. the way the story unfolds brought me into her world. the images were clear and easy to paint in my mind. the loneliness was palpable. and the last line brilliant. thank you for bringing me there

    tears collected as i read. this story is so sadly real for so many people i know here. i have a dear friend who's wife of 50 plus years doesnt know him as anyone other than the man who stops by everyday and annoys her. my own mother sits quietly in her 'waiting room', not interacting with anyone. she has no friends in her world and just waits for one of her children to call. it's all so sad.
    the way the story unfolds brought me into her world. the images were clear and easy to paint in my mind. the loneliness was palpable. and the last line brilliant. thank you for bringing me there

  • Denise

    Denise

    Hello Harry. You are my most faithful blog commenter. I always look forward to what you have to say. I am glad that the piece moved you, and sorry that it is so real in your world. It is a difficult place to be. I wrote this story two days ago, and I can't seem to shake it. It means a lot to me that you always read along with your heart open. So appreciated...

    Hello Harry. You are my most faithful blog commenter. I always look forward to what you have to say. I am glad that the piece moved you, and sorry that it is so real in your world. It is a difficult place to be. I wrote this story two days ago, and I can't seem to shake it. It means a lot to me that you always read along with your heart open. So appreciated...

  • Natalie

    Natalie West Chester, PA

    Wow, this hit close to home. I have an older friend, whom you know, who lives in an assisted living center (now called personal care). Fortunately, my friend is still very sharp, but I imagine that the endless days and routine feel like this for her. This is a powerful piece of writing.

    Wow, this hit close to home. I have an older friend, whom you know, who lives in an assisted living center (now called personal care). Fortunately, my friend is still very sharp, but I imagine that the endless days and routine feel like this for her. This is a powerful piece of writing.

  • Denise

    Denise

    Thanks Natalie. I spent a lot of time in a place like this in recent months, and this is a composite of some of the people there. Bernice is fictional and real at the same time. Thank you for reading and commenting. Much appreciated...

    Thanks Natalie. I spent a lot of time in a place like this in recent months, and this is a composite of some of the people there. Bernice is fictional and real at the same time. Thank you for reading and commenting. Much appreciated...

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