When it happens, you let it happen

In January 2022, my aunt died from COVID. This piece explores being with her, alone, at her deathbed, with full PPE on.

My aunt gave me this command
asked “Can you handle this?”

I lied and told her yes,
and pulled up a chair,

and watched my babcia breathe
in and out and in and out and in.

My aunt came back,
and we sat for hours.

My partner brought food,
and we sat vigil, pausing at times,

to see if the breathing had stopped.
Years later, I sit alone at her bedside.

The ceremony is the same, but substantially different.
Previously she would be the one to foresight,

“It will be eight hours”
And now, it is me telling me mother,

“She won’t last until tomorrow.”
Wrapped in plastic, I hold her fever.

I chant meditations to her,
“you have nothing else to do,

Nowhere else to be,
Just right here,

Right now.”
I tell her I get it now,

Why she sent me away before because I wasn’t ready then.
I tell her I am now.

I promise, I can handle it.
If and only if so this way, she does not die alone.

And as her breathing accelerates,
I grab her hand one final time.

I tell her loud enough any God within earshot can hear,
“I love you”

And she exhales
and her body

lets go.

Lynne Schmidt is the grandchild of a Holocaust survivor. They were a semi-finalist for the 2022 Button Poetry Chapbook Contest, and the winner of the 2021 The Poetry Question Chapbook Contest, and 2020 New Women’s Voices Contest. Lynne is the author of the chapbooks, SexyTime (TPQ 2022), Dead Dog Poems (Finishing Line Press, 2021), Gravity (Nightingale and Sparrow Press, 2019), and On Becoming a Role Model (Thirty West, 2020). In 2012 they started the project, AbortionChat, which aims to lessen the stigma around abortion. When given the choice, Lynne prefers the company of her pack of dogs and one cat to humans.



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