When I stepped out of the lift, it was silent on ward C2. The day-room was dark and locked, all the patients seemed to be asleep. No groaning, no crying. It was almost peaceful. The only noise was the gasping of the coffee machine. It was about 4 a.m. and I had to do my nightduty the whole week, which meant running through the whole hospital from ward to ward to help the night-nurses when they needed me. Nurse Andrea who was on nightduty on ward C2 had just phoned and asked me to give her a hand. So now I was looking down the dark corridor, but I couldn't find her anywhere. All the doors were closed, there was no light.
'Strange' I thought to myself and I was just going to turn around to
leave when I heard a noise coming from the bathroom. I slowly went down
the dark corridor to the door. When I came closer I noticed that there
was a light inside. I carefully opened the door and saw Andrea standing
in front of a bed that stood in the middle of the bathroom. She was preparing
a wash bowl and she said without looking up from her work:
"Hi. I'm glad you came at once. Get yourself some gloves, we have to hurry. His wife will come soon."
In the bright neon light the corpse looked unreal. The skin marbled, the eyes staring at the ceiling.
"Hold up his leg." Andrea said. We didn't talk much while we were washing him. He wasn't stiff yet so it wasn't easy to turn him on the side to wash the back. After we finished washing, Andrea took a bandage to bind up his mouth, which was quite difficult, because the bandage always slid over his chin. After she had finally managed to fix it, we put him on a clean white nightgown, we folded his hands on his stomach and covered him with a sheet.
Andrea stepped back, looked at him and suddenly said:
"Damn! The teeth. We forgot to put in his teeth !" So we had to unbind his lower jaw and Andrea put in the teeth she got from his bedside table.
Andrea prepares the death certificate when his wife arrives. She's a
bit out of breath, her hair in a mess. Andrea takes her to the bathroom.
"I'm sorry, but we have to keep him in here. There's no other room free tonight." The woman says nothing, follows Andrea to the bed.
"I once again want to express my deepest sympathy..." Andrea says and pulls back the sheet.
"Hello darling." the woman says to her dead husband.
"Why are you in the bathroom?" she asks, "Was it too loud in the other room?" Andrea is stunned.
"I'm sorry" she says, "but your husband passed away tonight."
The woman doesn't seem to understand her.
"Hello darling." she tries again, "Why doesn't he talk to me?"
"He is dead." Andrea says in a low but firm voice.
"But he can hear me, can't he?"
Andrea turns to me.
"Get the doctor." she whispers. The woman looks at her husband and suddenly she takes his cold hand we had folded so beautifully. A few seconds pass until her face changes. She holds her breath, stares stunned at the pale, cold hand she's holding. All of a sudden she drops it, takes a step back and the arm dangles out of the bed.
"Get the doctor." Andrea repeats and I run off for the phone, just seeing how the woman is starting to tremble. She takes a deep breath and begins to scream.
"God, God, God!!!"
In the large, white-tiled bathroom her voice echos to a thousand screams.
"God, God, God!!!" she won't stop, she's crying hysterically.
"God, God, God!!!" It echoes all over the ward as she's screaming and crying and yelling.
It took ages until the doctor came and gave her some sedatives.
I was sitting in the day-room, my shift was nearly over. It started
to get lighter, the moon became pale and transparent like parchment paper
and some birds were singing. It was quiet and peaceful again, but my hands
were trembling. This morning I only wanted to do one thing: hold you very,
very tight and tell you how much I love you.