Mercy [Poetry]

January 5, 2019

Some people say death is beautiful.

There is nothing beautiful about washing my dying grandpa,

his floppy skin sticky, smelling like he’s starting to turn.

There’s a certain smell when the body starts to die. And I want to crawl beneath the covers

and hold my grandpa’s body the way I used to when it was still warm.

I want to breathe my grandpa in the way I used to when he still smelled like


Instead, I shift awkwardly in his hospital bed, looking for a corner of space

not wet with urine. It’s time to change the bedding again.

Why do they make us sit so long with a rotting body?


Veterinarians got it right.

My sister talks about the way they got to spend their final moments

With Zizou, hands to paws

they stroked her and fed her bites of

bacon and sausage tenderly.

She could still swallow.

My grandpa can’t swallow anymore.

Zizou smiled as she drifted off


If my grandpa makes noises, they are moans of 

suffering. He thrashed and screamed in agony for three hours

until he was pumped full of enough morphine to knock out

a horse. He sleeps now, as we wait

with my grandfather’s body,


wishing we could have said goodbye

back when he was still my grandpa. 

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