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The Gray Ghost
By Kat Cody

I can barely talk about my mother,
about the room at the end of the hallway with a few pictures of people
she doesn’t recognize–
A family’s last, futile effort to pretend she is still theirs.
She’s not.
The gray ghost stole her years ago, pulled her into a shadowed grasp,
Tightly. Too tightly. At first, she struggled, but now,
she rests easy in its arms,
Quiet. Subdued. Surrendered.
Swallowed by its smothering embrace.
There had been moments we heard her call out,
A glance, or a smile, or a word that teased us into thinking she would return.
But now even that is gone, and all that remains is a faint trace of her presence
taunting us with a face so familiar,
and a stranger’s hollow eyes.

She reminds me of my Mother,
The woman before me.
I hold her when she cries because she doesn’t understand the pull of the gray ghost.
And I tell her she is never alone, because I feel her fear in the tremble of her hand in mine.
I bring her the Sun, the warmth of her dog, the familiar scent of coffee rising from the cup before her.
And for a few moments, there’s a light in her eyes.
Before the color fades and her slack-jawed inertia takes over,
Before her words, like choked, mid-winter moans, are consumed
And her limbs turn to slow, painful joints, stirring stiffly,
But mostly not at all.
Soon she will rest easy, the awareness gone.
But we remember.
We cannot forget.