Outside the door of room #16 , Marie could hear singing. It was her mother’s favorite song, although she did not recognize the voice. She paused to gather herself. He sang so very softly and tenderly.
“Miss Bellman, I think you should-”
“No, wait. Just a moment,” she whispered, closing her eyes and letting the song wash over her; this song that her mother and father used to dance to on the living room rug – feet shuffling, floors creaking. She swayed, dancing with them as she did when she was just a little girl, holding on to her mother’s skirt. And then there was silence. The voice stopped.
She nodded to the nurse who opened the door. Standing by her mother’s bed with his back to the door was a small man with a short sleeved plaid shirt, khakis, and sneakers. She stared first at the man and then at her mother. Fear and guilt welled up in her and tears began to flow. He turned. He was holding her mother’s hand. She knew who he was, but she couldn’t begin to process what he was doing here. And then he motioned for her to come to the bed. She looked at him, bewildered, then looked at her mother. As she approached she could barely recognized the frail body that lay before her.
The man gently held her mothers hand up to her and said, “Hurry, take her hand, it’s happening. She’s dying. Come here.”
She took the hand from him. He picked up a spiral notebook from the bed and moved around to the foot and began breathing deeply and taking notes. She turned back to her mother.
“Mom? I’m here, ” she spoke, half whispering, half weeping. “Your baby girl is here. Mom – ” she bowed her head and tears poured from her eyes, “I am so sorry I left you,” she sobbed. “I’m so sorry. Please forgive me. Please — ”
And then it was over. Life passed out of Sophia Bellman’s face and out of her hands. All was quiet. Peace descended on the room. The man stopping writing and closed his eyes, as if he were savoring the moment, not with pleasure but with profound reverence. She knew who he was. He was the smell collector.