The room was spare. The single bed, covered in a mauve quilt, was pushed against the wall. A gray and white stuffed dog sat atop the nearby dresser. A single, empty chair filled the space next to the bed.
The woman lay on her back with eyes closed and mouth open, her body slight under the quilt. Her breaths came hard, ragged, with spaces in between. The sound of her labors filled the room.
We quietly arranged ourselves on chairs we had brought for the occasion, facing the woman in the bed. She kept on with her breathing.
One of us whispered. “We’re here to be with you on your journey.”
Hearts lifted in song, quietly, softly.
Above her body, the woman greeted us, smiling, welcoming. We sang.
Others gathered above the woman’s body. A boy she had played with as a child. Family, friends. All her selves through the years. They crowded in above her, waiting. We sang.
We watched for the fall and rise of her chest, our notes matching a dwindling cadence. The people waited.
“I’m glad you’re here, ” the woman said to me. “No one else here can hear me.”
“It’s okay,” I told her. “This can be time. Look, they’re here.”
Our repertoire complete, we gathered our coats and chairs and left the now crowded room.