I read once about a woman who had lain in a coma for three weeks. When she awoke, she reprimanded her astonished doctors. “I could hear what you were saying about me,” she said, “ You should be more careful with what you say.”
I have always had that in mind when visiting someone who is really ill, and seemingly not aware of the world around them. When family is gathered, talk naturally is about the patient – mother or father – and I try to direct the conversation so that it includes the patient, rather than talking as if they aren’t there.
There is a story about such an occasion when a mother lay close to death. It was late December, and outside the hospital room, garlands were hung, little Christmas trees decorated window ledges, and there was a feeling – you know that feeling – that Christmas is around the corner.
A daughter and son sat at the bedside of their mother, quietly talking about how they would miss her. The daughter said, “ I just wished she could have lived to see this Christmas . Mother loved to go to church to see the crèche and the baby Jesus there with his mother Mary.”
Just then, the old lady stirred and her children looked as she opened her eyes.
“Don’t be sorry for me,” she said, her voice scarce more than a whisper, “I am going to see the real thing.” And she breathed her last.