A few hours later, I bolt up from the bed before Hannah can speak or touch me; it's as if I were expecting her. For a moment, we stare silently at each other, and then, still without speaking, I grab my robe and follow her down the stairs. My mother lies on her back, her mouth and eyes both open.

"I'm not sure why I woke," Hannah says quietly, standing next to me, "but I noticed that her breathing had slowed. Her last few breaths were several minutes apart and then she…just stopped."

I nod, unable to speak. And then I go over to my mother, reach down, and gently lower her eyelids. They feel waxy and cool under my fingertips. I look down at her face. Good-bye, I call to her silently. In my head, my voice is warm and strong. Good-bye, good-bye, wherever you are.

Copyright © 2010 by Zoe FitzGerald Carter. From the forthcoming book Imperfect Endings, by Zoe FitzGerald Carter, to be published by Simon & Schuster in March. As in the book, all names were changed except for the writer's and public figures'.
Zoe's mother in Paris, circa 1954.


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