For several long months we couldn’t tell if Grandma was coming or going. I don’t think she knew either, but she knew what she didn’t want: an iron maiden of oxygen machines, hooks, and tubes, a landscape of walls with a crooked Jesus.
Together, Dad and I learned lip-reading and eye-telling, shaping stories for her Midwestern accent, slowed over eighty-three years and shuttered by broken vertebrae.
Finally, she had strength enough to whisper.
On a burning July hillside—drooping nosegays, plastic American flags, dirt—we heard her voice again and felt relief and some regret, but no longer fear of silence.