i searched under the covers for her hand and it was so far in, farther than i thought. she had shrunk. It has been a month since i had last seen her and she was half the size it seemed. in april she was sitting up, legs off the side of the bed, the remnants of breakfast in a blue plastic bowl on the rolling side table not far from her. an indistinguishable beige mush. oat meal, apple sauce or bananas. her eyes were quick, darting from me, to Jeff, to me, to the bowl. we didn’t talk about it but she knew. when death hangs in the air it makes itself known.

we held hands while jeff went to speak to a nurse in the hallway. her fingers plump, her ring snug against her skin. a shiny bright emerald nestled into my palm when she placed her hand inside of mine instead of threading our fingers together. we said goodbye with the promise of coming back.

and here we were again. my hand reaching for hers, closing her fingers and wrapping mine around the outside, like before.

nobody gets out unscathed.

the hospice nurse explains in detail what happens to the body because ben wants to know. he has questions. like the ability to identify these signs means you can stop it. mottled skin, labored breathing, fever. she can only really see shadows.

“you have to tell her to close her eyes,” she said and showed us how she would do it.

“miss gerard. i’m going to close your eyes for you, ok?” she said loudly and gently moved her hands over margaret’s face, closing each eye.

“they can hear you. so tell her. say everything.”