I am fourteen years old, and this was an assignment for my English class. We were told to write about a time when we had to say goodbye. This is my recollection.

Goodbye. It is not actually spoken but it is haphazardly the only thing on my mind. The cold plain waiting room of the hospital was very discomforting, but the door leading into the room is comforting to me. It is the only barrier between me and the unavoidable impression of impending death.

The chair underneath me seems like the only object that can hold me up while my shoulders droop to the ground and my head rests on my chest. I am offered comfort, but how can I be helped when I am unsure of the problem? Red faces, ruined tissues, and wet eyes on strangers' faces are the normality now. I am no longer frightened to see my father cry, or my grandfather.

My 7-year old fingers are like that of an irate pianist, forcefully banging my fingers on everything within reach, to a certain tempo only steady in my own racing mind. I feel like a tiny mouse, lost in her own maze of confusion and chaos. My footsteps are tiny, like a skeptical kitten, and fear is visibly written across my pale face. Grownups in white coats concealing their fatigued physiques coax me into the room, but I am too afraid to go alone.

For a minute my feet are a part of the hospital's foundation, unable to progress. My mother, with her heart on her sleeve, comes out and uses her benevolence and familiar face, although dramatically changed by the lack of sleep and tears, to convince me that all would be right.

My mother grabs my hand and for once it feels stable in her shaking grip. As my mother reaches for the door, I puff out my chest like a brave lion, only I have no courage inside at all. The door swings open, and the stale air from the room rushes over me like a tidal wave.

The first aspect I noticed about the room was how bright it was although the process of death was being completed inside. The white walls were bare and the television was on. The 5-o'clock news perfectly depicted the tragedy inside the room. On the wooden table next to the bed was a half-full glass of water. The majority of the room would have said half empty by the outlook they felt towards the future outcome of the illness.

My grandfather was standing next to the bed. He used to be a bear, showing no emotions, but I found him now to always have red eyes. The wrinkles I had always found to be calming on his face were now deepened into his skin until he was almost unrecognizable. There were no voices to drone out the soft muffle of the television, except for the small frail voice of my ill grandmother. She was beckoning for me to come forward, and I noticed how her skin drooped from her bones on her forearm. Surprisingly, her voice was somewhat of a consolation to me.

I grabbed her outstretched finger and I felt like it would break if I forced any pressure on it. I quickly drew my arm back, only to become ashamed. I walked towards this smiling living skeleton, but I couldn't look in her eyes.

The first time she smiled at me was the first time since she had been sick that I had noticed the toll cancer had taken on her body. The rich brown color of her eyes was not sparkling anymore and was now dull. Her shining chestnut colored hair that I had grown so accustomed to was only a small tuft of gloomy grayish-brown fluff. The pain was so evident in her eyes that I had to wince also.

As she pulled me closer using all of the strength she had left in her body, she whispered in my ear with her raspy voice, "I love you." And, at that moment, all of my courage returned to me, and I leaned in and kissed her taut cheek. Then, I summoned up everything I had left in me and whispered in her ear," I am going to miss you. I love you."

And with that, my final words were spoken to her. And it was palpable what we were doing at that moment, saying our final goodbyes.

Copyright © 1999 Lucy Novario, Age 14