Lurline suffered alone with the gravity of this decision. Despite her husband’s absence at the hospital, they managed life together and had started building a home for the family they were creating. They maintained a farm and a church. Jeral had made the long journey to the hospital when it was time for his wife to deliver their child, but he was not allowed to stay, so he had returned home.
As Lurline lay in bed, she worried about how Jeral would react if he were to come to take his family home and learn that only his child had survived. She pictured his face, perplexed by the doctor’s words. She saw his hands reaching for her in desperation and denial, only to confirm that his wife was, in fact, absent from her body.
Lurline inhaled the present: her church, her husband and the life inside her. Then she exhaled, as if letting go of all that might have been: a long marriage, parenthood, their rightful future. Placing her hand on her Bible, she glimpsed her wedding ring. She had not removed it since Jeral had slid it onto her finger years before, but she decided to remove it now, which took great effort, as her fingers had swollen.
Once it was off, she whimpered at the sight of her Bible and wedding ring. In life they were her identity, but in death they would be a memory.
If she were to die, Lurline needed Jeral to know what had happened during her last moments. As she approached my mother, holding her Bible and wedding ring, she felt guilty encroaching on such happiness, but she had no other choice. She didn’t want to cry, but upon seeing my mother holding me, Lurline’s eyes filled with tears. She put the ring and Bible in my mother’s hands with the request that Jeral receive them if she did not make it out of surgery alive.
These symbols of love and commitment felt like cement in my mother’s hands. She took a deep breath and nodded yes. Even if my mother didn’t quite realize the extent of Lurline’s trouble, she knew how deeply she had come to appreciate their newfound friendship.