That unmistakable “AAAAAAAmmmyyyyyy” heard down the street from my childhood home was my mother’s voice. None of my friends’ moms had an operatic singing voice that floated throughout the neighborhood calling the other children home for dinner. Just mine. We girls teased her and would make our own voices shake with vibrato to sound like hers. And I smile thinking back…one of mom’s favorite old movies, Rose Marie, with “Indian Love Call” * being sung, the “I am calling you, oo-oo-oo-oooo,” ringing around my house as I grew up.
This strange memory combines with a new experience, as I sat at the side of my patient, literally taking his last breaths. His wife had left the room briefly to call her sister, letting family know this turn of events was happening very suddenly. I walked quickly into the next room to tell her he was going. She came back to his side, and we watched his color disappear and his last gasp occur.
She took his hand, and said “Goodbye, my love, rest in peace”.
The voice of a dear one: heard.
As we sat together, each holding a hand and myself unobtrusively checking a pulse, his heart began to beat again, and a long breath escaped. She and I looked across him, at each other, and sat quietly stunned. After a few more slow, slow breaths, I said “I think you called him back”. I shared about the Buddhist tradition that a few of my patients had explained to me, about not touching someone as they spend those last few minutes or hours, in that strange place between this life and the next, and the belief that a person was working to make that final transcendence. She asked if she should tell him it was okay to go. Yes, I agreed.
Leaning close, in a whispered voice she lovingly said, “It’s okay to leave. I will be fine. You can go now. I love you.”
We sat, hands at our side, without touching but quietly watching. One final sigh escaped his lips.
Truly, I heard a love song sung today.