I waved hands at the nurse. She slowly walked towards me and took the medicine packet from my hand. Mom removed her oxygen mask and was pointing towards the water bottle. Ward boy helped her in drinking water. It was my third night at a Covid hospital.
Back to benches in the reception area. It was the only place for patients' families to take a rest. It comforted, but not enough to get a sound sleep. Who can sleep on steel benches, anyway? But there were many family members - a few hopeful and a few sad.
I tried to remain hopeful. There I met her–Archana. Sitting on my adjacent bench, even she was looking around.
"Not getting sleep?" I asked her.
I could see her tired eyes. Mask hid the face.
"Who is admitted?" She asked.
"You are here for?"
"My brother-in-law. My sister was alone, so I came to help her."
At such dire times, she traveled from Mumbai to Chhattisgarh to help her sister. I could feel she was a gem of a person.
"No one is helping. The second wave is taking away many lives. How did you decide to travel?"
I have seen life and death closely; she said.
Then she told a story. Story of her mom. Something I could never forget.
I stayed in Mumbai with my husband, two kids, and my mom. My mom was my biggest support system. Early last year, doctors confirmed she has stomach cancer. Many operations later, there was no hope left.
"One more operation, and she can survive a few months or up to a year," Doctor said.
I looked at my mom struggling every day.
"What if we don't get the operation done?" I asked.
"Then, a few days." Doctor said.
I came back to the hospital ward and looked at my mom. She was in pain. I didn't wish her to go through all the pain. I said no to the operation.
Informed my brother and sister to come to Mumbai soon.
The next day we took mom back home. It was gala time at home. My brother's family, my sister's family, and my family. 12 people in a house are playing songs, watching movies, and gossiping every day. I bought a red silk saree for my mom. Red was her favorite colour.
On that morning, dressed in a red saree, mom helped me in cooking breakfast. She couldn't get up from bed by evening. She was struggling to speak. I sensed it was time. All of us gathered near her bed: my brother, his wife, and their two kids. My sister sat near her pillow, her husband, and their kid. I held her hands, and my husband was standing next to me. My kids sat next to her legs. She looked around a full circle and smiled. Slowly, her eyes closed, and she stopped breathing.
She smiled in her last moment.
I was about to cry. Archana was a stranger, but I felt proud of her suddenly.
"You made sure her last moments were beautiful," I said.
It's been months, but I still remember her—a stranger who told me a beautiful and meaningful story.