Over breakfast, the Timekeeper started telling me a disgusting story about pigs and poop. I flipped, "I'm still eating, man!"
He laughed. "You ought to have a stronger stomach than that. I don't get sick from stories." A thoughtful pause. "I do get sick if someone got sick, though."
Then he remembered the night Ila's mother passed away. Ila’s Mother was the Timekeeper's step mother, the one who raised him after his own departed when he was younger. He was with her that night. She awoke with a fever and was vomiting blood. Her body couldn't take it and she died.
"How could someone die from vomiting blood, man?"
"She didn't just die from something she ate. She died from an illness in her lungs. Only, she never knew about it until she started vomiting blood, which was a few nights before she passed away."
And that resettled the air between us back to its snug storytelling mood. A life loved and productive to its last moments, oblivious to worry of illness, almost always promises a happy ending story. Death comes in many forms. This was one of the better ones.
When she awoke that night, she asked for milk. Since it was the Timekeeper who was on watch, he was the one prepared it for her. And she sipped it all with a straw.
Then the fever cooled, and it bloomed in beads of perspiration on her brow. The Timekeeper began to wipe her face, but she said, "Leave it, child."
Then she fell into deep sleep. And then some.
"It's one of the signs of a good death." And he said it in a heartbreaking sweetness that children reserve for the memory of lost embraces.
"Did you cry?"
He grinned. I shook my head laughing. How could I forget? One who sees both worlds is never lonely even in grief.
The hospital wanted to keep its reputation. Hence, when Ila's Mother's family requested to carry her body home that very night, the release process was fast. Fast is intimate.
They didn’t even bother casketing her. The men who loved her carried her body closely in their arms. They traveled through the night. They held her on their crisscrossing laps, inside a hired pick-up tub. The Timekeeper held her waist.
And it might have been the cold, or maybe as a private joke between them. That her post-mortem bladder relaxed, releasing its liquid memories into his living embrace.