Sunday, March 20, 2005


I entered the two story stuccoed building, painted a pale ecru, and followed the signs to Room 128. It was a sunny day outside, and the sunlight came in through the windows, illuminating the hallways within the building with a soothing light. The ever-present smell of some sterile chemical lingered in the air.

The door to Room 128 was ajar, so I entered after a quick knock on the door to declare my presence. But the room was empty. Confused, I looked around. There was no signs of my mother, or her belongings. I quickly walked out the room, turned left, and exited the building to their courtyard and approached a nurse that was helping another patient.

I asked for assistance, but my pleas fell to deaf ears, and she paid no attention to me. I looked around. Nobody showed any interest in helping me.

I walked back into the cancer treatment center. Back into the hallway. And made my way to Room 128 again, but along the way, I passed by a plain white door marked, Morgue. I hesitated.

I put my hand on the doorknob. My body became numb, my mind froze, and I felt my eyes glaze over as I slowly entered the darkened room. It was colder than the rest of the building. I could feel my skin contracting, and my stomach started to knot.

The room was deserted. Without turning on the lights, I walked over to the desk and found the clipboard. I traced the list of new deaths with my finger, but failed to find my mother's name.

I placed the clipboard back down on the metallic desk, turned around, and slowly walked out of the room. My heart started to beat again. I swallowed my sobs of relief.

"Can I help you?"

I looked up to see a nurse. "I... I'm looking for Susan."

She had been moved to a different room. But right now she was in the therapy room. She had just finished her treatment for today, and I could go visit her.

I walked into the therapy room to find my mother lying on her stomach. Her bare back was exposed, and I could see that it had damaged by the extensive radiation she had received in order to treat her cancer. The skin had scabbed over in places, alternating with areas of dried skin and erythema. Her head, which had been resting on her folded arms, lifted to reveal her beautiful, but tired, smile.

"Oh, Kwangyon-ee neh," she greeted me in Korean.

I went to her and cradled her head in my arms, choking back tears of guilt for not visiting her more often. I couldn't remember the last time that I had visited, it had been so long...

She asked how I was doing. I told her about Nathalie, and that we're going to get married. She smiled, and told me that was wonderful news. She asked more about Nathalie. I've been with Nathalie for over 18 months, and my mother had never heard me talk about her. My heart, heavy with shame and guilt from my paucity of visits, made me hang my head with remorse and embarrassment, despite the happy news I was conveying about my and Nathalie's upcoming marriage. I was failing my duties as a son.

My mother, being a mother and all forgiving as mothers are, then told me to quit sulking and raise my head up. She knows how busy my life is with residency and how little time I have, even for myself. "It's a beautiful sunny day outside," she reminded me, "let's not waste it on silly tears."

I smiled. She then asked me what else was on my mind.

I sighed. And then told her that Nathalie and I were thinking of having a small wedding. A very small wedding. And that I knew dad would be very disappointed with that idea.

Well, my mother stated a small wedding would suit her just fine as long as Nathalie and I were happy. An elopement wouldn't bother her at all either. Whatever Nathalie and I decided to do with our wedding was fine with her. "I trust you'll make the right choices. I always have."

What about dad? She smiled impishly and told me that was a battle I had to fight on my own.

All of a sudden, the room started to get very bright, and then faded out to a brilliant white. I tried to shield my eyes, but there wasn't a source of light. It was just all around me.

Then I woke up.
I looked at the clock, my alarm would go off in 14 minutes.