The room is sterile, institutional, walls the colour of egg yolk, a dying plant on the window ledge.

Four beds, women with broken hips, grey hair fine as mist, arms like milky reeds, their eight-veined feet pressed together as though in prayer. Harried on my lunchbreak I sit, no fan of sticky plastic seats.

Gran points a bony finger, lines on her face beaming in elegance. “A tech CEO,” she tells her new friends.

Nurses rush in and out, rumpled scrubs and sunken eyes telling the story of too much work.

My phone rings and I ignore it – all the screaming, screaming running, pretending, circuits shortening, fake news and false truths.

I murmur gentle words, plumping pillows, straightening blankets, scattering magazines with large print for filmy eyes.

Yellow liquid snakes through plastic tubes secured to metal poles, lemony cleanser doing nothing to mask the smell of soiled linens, trays of soggy half-eaten egg sandwiches.

Not everything is as it appears.

A frail hand squeezes mine, a peace.

Gran hugs me and my knees buckle. She doesn’t say I love you – doesn’t have to.

Still, life interrupts, with calls and texts smothering me, drowning me:

Ping. A deal gone south. 
Ping. The divorce lawyer. 
Ping. Another schoolyard confrontation with my son this week.

Jagged pieces. Raw edges. Glitches I don’t reveal.

Her friends smile, unspoken love invisible and caressing like the wind. Fire consumes from within, searing my heart, my soul.

How I long to fill the gap, slow down, be content. Tell me, how to let go?
How not to be busy now, busy all the time, exhausted?

My days are numbered too. The time will come. How will I identify myself, the line in the sand that divides earth from soul?

Gran smiles, easy. “Silence your pocket.”

The women cackle, playful, a natural ease, all chiffon and softness. They’re half robed, half exposed, their frail bodies a series of broken promises, whispering reminders of a life well-lived.

One story bleeds into the next: first dates, first loves, bruises and mistakes, past versions of self, simpler times. Long friendships, birthdays, raindrops, sunsets and leaves in October, colours which never get old. Family and children, lives built, now floating away.

Bonds tied strong enough to tether continents.

I want to drink it in, inhale it, the completeness they embody – the dream of the life I want to have, the one I feel in my bones.

The room gets quiet, content, and I sit with my thoughts, telling myself what has never been hidden.

I can feel quiet kindnesses along with glaring truths, tranquility amid dark skies with stars for guides, a world that values grace.

My body loosens. 

This will not be Gran’s last breath

This will not be mine. 

When the world moves so quickly, sometimes we need to look for moments of grace and give them freely. This piece of creative non-fiction is inspired by the many strong women I met in the hospital while visiting relatives. I was humbled by how much they taught me while enduring difficult circumstances. Wherever life plants you, bloom with grace.

Power Down can be found in Grace Notes, an anthology guest edited by Shane Schick and published July 2023 by Paddler Press. Honoured to be included in this issue amongst many more talented international creatives.

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