When watching someone die, be very quiet.
Listen to the machines beep, her paper lantern lungs fill with air for the last few times.
Listen to the deafening silence as life slips quietly from the room.
Hold her hand, withered and grey with skin as thin as promises.
Hold the hand that used to hold yours.
Stroke the palm that used to stroke the side of your face.
The nurses will offer you water because you haven't left her side in two days, but whisper it because death is a quiet happening.
Step out into the hall to weep when the cries shake your shoulders and threaten to escape as a scream.
When you feel the loss and unfairness of it all jumping at the back of your throat, excuse yourself.
Keep the lights dim, and watch.
Pretend your heart didn't stop and your stomach didn't sink every time the signs of life on the monitors hesitate for a moment too long.
Brush her hair for her, the way she used to brush yours.
Say thank you. For the lessons and the recipes and the wiped away tears. For the phone calls you should have returned sooner, the birthday cards with the five dollar bills and pictures of kittens that came every year, even after you were far too old for cards like that.
Tell her you love her, and you forgive her for her sins.
You forgive her for the scars she gave your father that resulted in the scars he gave to you.
Whisper that you love her even though she was complicated, damaged, lost.
Someone has to love all the broken people, all the lost and invisible people, she used to say.
When you'd ask why she'd wink and say they were the ones that deserved it the most.
Before it's too late, say goodbye.
You'll know the moment she's left you.
You'll know because everything will be the same, but all the sameness will be so amplified by how wrong it is for none of the rest of the world to have changed, that the simple fact that the sky is the same blue it always is will be blinding.
Idle conversation will be maddening.
The sound of people laughing outside this room will be heart breaking.
You'll know the moment she's gone, and you'll always know what time it is on the East coast.