The next day was another rough one for her. So I sat in her room for most of it, making trips to the bathroom quite often because the chemo had really gotten to me.
Most of the time, we sat in silence. She wasn’t up to talking; knitting or crocheting either. It made me want to cry, to think that her treatments (whatever they were) had reduced her to a mere shell of herself.
She no longer attempted to wear her wig, and any caps that she made were sloppy and laced with blacks and grays. White had disappeared from her drawer of yarn altogether along with most of her other colors.
Dark rings circled beneath her eyes and she stared at the ceiling for a lot of the time I was there. Ms. Ryder paced.
So I sat in the desk chair beside her bed and tried to think of something to say to her to bring her back to the present. The only thing that came to mind was the song “Amazing Grace”. For the second time in three days, I sang the words to her.
For a minute after I’d finished singing it, she didn’t respond. Then, she turned her head toward me until she was looking right into my eyes.
And she smiled.
“Middle,” she said. “I’ll see you there someday, Middle.”
Ms. Ryder was immediately at her bedside, eyes wide. “Phoebe, stop speaking such nonsense. You’re not going anywhere.”
“Mom.” Phoenix stared at her and sighed. “Maybe you should get the doctor.”
Ms. Ryder’s eye grew even wider. She nearly flew from the room.
Then Phoenix turned back to me. “I have something for you under the couch cushions. You should get it.”
I wasn’t sure if I should turn my back on her for even a minute, but I did as she said anyway. Her eyes had a certain urgency about them that I didn’t understand.
When I pulled out a ball of yarn from under the cushions she said, “Bring it here.”
I handed it to her and she pulled a sting loose on one end. The yarn ball unraveled into a three-foot long scarf. That’s when I realized what it really was. It was the braid I’d helped her make the first day she showed me how to weave her dark yarn into the colors. She had knitted it into a scarf.
There were new white strands that held the braid together and had transformed the twelve-foot long braid into a very thin scarf.
She handed the scarf to me and said, “I’ll see you there, Jove No-Middle-Name Caraway.” And she smiled for the second time I’d met her.
“Thank you.” It was all I could say. Because I already knew that she’d made up her mind that she was ready.
She reached for my hand and squeezed it. I told her hand in both of mine. “Thank you, Phoenix.” I managed a smile, but couldn’t hide the shine of coming tears from her.
“You saved me, Jove. Jesus saved me.” Her lip trembled once, but never wavered again as she said,
“He has come to take me home.”
Then she closed her eyes and her hand went limp in mine almost instantly.
I left before Ms. Ryder got back. I couldn’t bear to watch them try to revive her. She was at peace now. No more pain. No more suffering.
I knew I shouldn’t have been sad . . . at the very least, I should have been happy for her. As happy as I’d been when I found out that David had gone into remission.
But I still cried until Ms. Ryder came into my room that night while I was trying to watch the “Iron Man” movie one of the nurses had lent me.
All she could do was smile sadly and try not to cry as she handed me the scarf that I’d forgotten in Phoenix’s room when I left so quickly.
“She wanted you to have this.” She chewed her lip in an attempt to keep from sobbing, and could only say, “She told me that you were her best friend.”
I cried harder after that. But eventually went to sleep and woke in the morning with a horrible, dull ache in my chest.