The Five Stages of Grief
By Tom Bostock
(The scene is a hospital room with a desk, a bed and two chairs, a clipboard and a wastepaper basket. A nurse is sitting at the desk, reading a clipboard when Mrs. Leona Vaccetti and her daughter Lucinda enter stage right. Although she normally uses a cane, Leona hands it to her daughter and marches proudly onto stage.)
NIGHT NURSE: (looking up from her clipboard) Good evening Mrs. Vaccetti. How are you this evening? I see that you brought reinforcements tonight (looking at Lucinda).
LEONA: (looking proudly at her oldest daughter) This is my daughter, Lucinda.
LUCINDA: (Smiling at the night nurse) Pleased to meet ya, mam.
NIGHT NURSE (The night nurse smiles at the girl and turns to LEONA.) I’m afraid there is no change, Mrs. Vaccetti. I wish I had better news for you tonight.
(LEONA and daughter walk across the stage to the bed where her son Joey lays.) Hi Joey. It’s Momma. (Unresponsive eyes stare at the ceiling) and guess who I brought with me, Lu.
LUCINDA: Hi Joey. How ya doin? (turning to her mother) That’s gotta be the stupidest thing I ever said. How do I think he’s feeling after he has a heart attack and keels over on the golf course. I heard the doctor tell you he did a quadruple bypass but things went wrong and now he’s brain dead. What’s that mean, Momma?
LEONA: You never mind, you hear. Doctors don’t know everything. Isn’t that right Joey? (She leans over her lifeless son.) You’re a good boy. This can’t be happening to you. You gotta great life, a wonderful wife and two great children. You gonna wake up. I know you gonna wake up and open your eyes and go home to your family. I told the kids you was gonna be fine. Fine, you hear me, Fine. Someday, we gonna look back on this and laugh.
(LEONA’S voice rises almost to hysteria. Her hands reach out. as though to shake his shoulders).
LUCINDA: (reaching out and gently restraining her Mom.) Sit down and rest for a few minutes (she guides her towards a chair next to the bed.
(Leona sits heavily and begins to sniffle to herself.)
LEONA: I did something while you were in the bathroom, before we got on the elevator. I shouldn’t have but I couldn’t help myself.
LUCINDA: What did you do that was so bad Mom?
LEONA: I yelled at God!
LUCINDA: You did what?
LEONA: I yelled at God. I told him, hey God. I know we ain’t talked in a while but why you pickin on my son Joey? Then I told him, you wanna pick on somebody, you pick on me. Hey Bigshot, you ain’t nothin but a big bully! You leave my kid alone! I even scared some guy who stuck his head in the Chapel.
LUCINDA: So, then what happened?
LEONA: I stared at the polished wooden cross above the altar and realized what I had done. I had actually yelled at God. I was goin straight to HELL!
LUCINDA: No Mom, God knows that you were just upset. (Pause) And then what?
LEONA: Wadda ya think. I apologized, of course. I said, sorry about that God. I just lost my cool. Don’t sent me no plagues or locusts or anything. Just lookin out for my Joey is all. I tell you what, you fix my Joey and I go to Mass every day and twice on Sunday even. You gotta give my boy a break. I know you want another good Catholic fighting the forces of darkness. I’ll even give you a hundred “Hail Marys.” I took the prayer beads out of my pocketbook … Hail Mary, full of grace …
LUCINDA: Oh, Mom!
LEONA: And the worst part is (voice breaking) I bargained with God and I don’t think he even heard me!
(Leona collapses in tears and her daughter rushes to console her.)
LUCINDA: (talking to herself) I should never have let her come here, week after week, hoping for a miracle.
Mom, we need to talk (gently touching her mother’s cheek). We both heard what the doctors said, Joey is gone and he ain’t comin back. That shell over there (turns her head in the direction of the bed.) You have to face it Mom, that’s not Joey and he’s never coming back. We both know that he wouldn’t want to live this with all these stupid machines. (gesturing to the heart monitor and respirator.)
(Leona composes herself, resolutely gets up from the chair and walks back over to her son with resignation, for a final goodbye.)
LEONA: Oh Joey. Oh, my baby. (stroking her son’s cheek) I don’t know how I will live without you! You were always such a good son and I was always proud of you. I know it’s hard but it’s time for you to go. Don’t worry about your family. I always got room for them. Go now son and God bless you.
(Her voice thickens and she is unable to continue.)
LUCINDA: Help me honey!
(Leona rushes to her mother’s side as she falls heavily into the chair. A scream is heard and Leona slumps to the floor.)
LUCINDA: Somebody help me!
NURSE: (getting up from her desk and rushing to Leona’s side, notices an unnatural silence in the room. The heart monitor is silent. After ministering to Leona, she places her stethoscope on the comatose patient’s heart). He’s gone. (Consulting her watch) Time of death 21:54.
LUCINDA: (leaving her now conscious mother some time with her son, walks towards the desk.)
(Lighting dims at bed. Spotlight on Lucinda and nurse speak center stage.)
NURSE: Is she going to be okay?
LUCINDA: I hope so. I’m going to have all the grandkids at the house when we get home. It should be just what the doctor ordered (hesitating) but somehow, I doubt it. Grandkids or not, no matter how old he got, he will always be, that is, (Lucinda hesitates momentarily.) … he was (pause) her baby.
(Lucinda looks down sadly, and reaches into her purse, making certain that he mother isn’t looking. She takes out an official looking legal document.
(Lucinda shows document to the nurse.)
LUCINDA: It was always about the money with his wife. Now I guess it is all about the insurance. Do you know what she did this morning when I stopped by to see if she wanted to go to the hospital with mom and me? She handed me that Power of Attorney and told me to pull the plug. Just like that, pull the damn plug!
NURSE (placing her hand on Lucinda’s shoulder) Oh Honey. I’m so glad you didn’t have to tell your mom about that paper.
LUCINDA: So am I. (pause) So am I.
(Lucinda turns and walks back to her mother. Placing her arm around her mother to help support her, they walk slowly towards the desk. Realizing she is still holding the incriminating document, Lucinda hands it to the nurse.)
LUCINDA: Would you please throw this trash away for me?
(Nurse nods and Lucinda and Leona begin to exit stage right. Leona leans heavily on her cane.)
LEONA: What was that honey?
LUCINDA: Just some junk mail. Nothing for you to worry your head about. Just some junk mail.
(Exit stage right.)