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Claire was violently wakened by the jarring ring of her phone at 2:30 in the morning. She grabbed at her cell, thinking: nothing good happens this time of night.
“Hello, Ms. Lawrence, this is Doctor Parker. Sorry to disturb you so early but I’m afraid your mother has taken a severe turn for the worse. As I mentioned yesterday, despite all our efforts, the internal bleeding has started in her peritoneal cavity again and we all agreed that further surgery isn’t an option. I was hoping for a few more days but I think it best that you come to the hospital now. We’ll make her as comfortable as we can but there may not be much time left.”
The head-on collision that her mother, Emily, was involved in, had taken the other driver’s life. He was pronounced dead at the scene. They now knew he was drunk. Just a kid, out celebrating his graduation and then irresponsibly getting behind the wheel. Now her mother, who never touched alcohol, was paying the price for his stupidity. Claire had been devastated about the boy’s death while at the same time consumed with guilt that she just couldn’t muster up any similar feelings for her mother.
Claire hung up the phone, threw on some track pants and grabbed her car keys. Her hands were shaking. Oh God, she thought, I need this to be over. She needed a release for all the pent up emotion of these last few days. She had yet to cry. Her relationship with her mother was strained at best, confrontational at worst. She had battled since the accident to sort out her feelings but they kept changing and morphing. At first she felt pity, then came loathing as she endured the criticism and vitriol issued from her mother’s hospital bed, made all the more disturbing by her frail, rasping voice. Claire wished she could disappear and not have to face whatever tonight would bring, but from somewhere deep down she found the strength to get in the car and drive.
She flew down Queen Street and had to stop herself from speeding. Slow down girl, she thought. One accident per family is enough. But the streets were deserted and she arrived at St. Mike’s in record time. The hospital was quiet and the intensive care unit quieter still. The duty nurse nodded to Claire.
“Just go on in, dear. I’ll let Dr. Parker know you’re here. Your mother asked us to call her priest. He should be here shortly.”
“Thank you,” Claire said sincerely “You’ve been so kind.”