By Holly Willis

October 23, 2017


In the final week of my mother's life, a duck and her ducklings traveled by her bedroom window in a wobbly caravan, declining in number with each daily pass. (The cats, I suspect: ruthless.) An owl snapped up a yellow snake from the side of the road and carried it aloft to a branch where it perched, its back toward me, as I watched from the ground below. In the late afternoon, as my mother breathed her way toward her last breath, a deer stepped from the edge of the woods into the coppery light and stood tall, fixing us with a direct gaze from across the field. Waiting for death, I yearned for a signal, a sign, a way to sort figure from ground. In the widening expanse of time between breaths, I held my mother’s narrow hand, I looked out at the deer in the June light, and we roared together through the tumbling whirl of the world in silence and grace.

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