The red candles caste a flicker of light as the nurse went into the room and gave the patient’s wife a cup of tea and biscuits. The nurse knew the rules, but she ignored saying anything about the candles.
“How is he now?” She asked. His wife looked at her husband lying in the bed. She smiled and said “Thanks. He’s in his own world now.”
The nurse nodded and left. Such devotion, she thought, by her husband’s side for the past five days since his massive stroke. His wife had driven him to the hospital herself, she told the doctor, as an ambulance would have taken too long. She had struggled to put him in the passenger seat and just sped at top speed, noticing him falling to the floor as she braked a few times. She had neglected to fasten his seat belt.
After a few hours in A&E, the doctor had told her that there was little hope for her husband. They would make him as comfortable as possible, but, at nearly seventy years of age, there was little they could do for him. She asked if there was any chance of him waking up before he passed away and was informed that there was a slight possibility. She requested family visits only when she was present. She signed the “Do Not Resuscitate” form and asked for two red candles to see her through these terrible times.
While her husband’s room was being prepared, his wife went to the canteen, had a large coffee, to which she added a drop of brandy, which she kept in her black handbag for emergencies. Suitably calmer now, she phoned her in- laws to pass on the sad news. They were, understandably, surprised and told her they would be there as quickly as they could be. She then collected her thoughts for the coming events and made her way to the hospice- room to be by her husband’s side at this emotional time in their long marriage.
The chaplain and a nurse were with her husband when she got to the room. The nurse said he had muttered a few words. They sounded like “Where’s Ann?” His wife smiled, sat on the bed, held his hand and whispered into his ear. “Don’t fret sweetie, I’m here. “She said “And I’ll be with you till the very end”. She sensed him struggling and beginning to catch his breath. She squeezed his hand tighter and looked into his eyes. They were starting to roll around like two little eggs in a nest. The nurse mopped his brow, smiled at his wife and left. She informed the chaplain that she would like to be alone with her husband, but she would speak with him later to discuss arrangements. He mumbled a few prayers and quietly left. He was a young priest and always felt he was not cut out for this area of the ministry.
She lit the two red candles and sat down in the chair beside her husband. He sniffed, looked at the candles and started to cough for a few minutes till he drifted off into a deep sleep.
“That’s it my dear” She said “I knew the candles would help. You sleep now and reflect on our times together.”
Over the next few days, a few of his family visited him but, despite their objections, his wife was always present. He awoke a few times, mumbled a few words but struggled to make a coherent sentence. His sister thought he said that he wanted his solicitor. His wife said she heard something else. Then an argument started. His two sisters left saying they would contact their solicitor. His wife informed the nurses’ station that she and her husband wanted no visitors for the time being.
Husband and wife were alone now. She held his hand, mopped his sweating brow and talked about their time together. He was conscious but struggling as his wife reminisced and firmly held his hand.
She told him of her plans for his passing into the next world and where he would finally rest.
At this he attempted to sit up, grasped the pillow, glared at the two red candles, gurgled a few words, looked at his wife and fell back with a groan on the bed. The monitor bleeped, a nurse ran in, checked his pulse looked at his wife. “Sorry Ann.” She said. “He has gone”
His wife went and had a coffee, with her few drops of brandy, while the nurses settled her husband’s body for his family to pay their respects. When she went back to the room his two sisters and a man, whom she recognised as her husband’s family solicitor, were there weeping. After they left the chaplain came in, said a short prayer and asked if he could do anything for her and that he was, like the rest of the staff, very impressed at her devotion to her husband’s final few days on earth. She looked at the two red candles for a few seconds, then glanced over at her husband lying all laid- out on the hospital bed.
“May I speak to you for a few minutes Father?” She asked. “Of course” he replied, sensing, for some unknown reason, that he was about to feel he would like to be somewhere else. He had these thoughts more frequently since he became chaplain.
“We were married, Father, for thirty six years, six months and twenty days. This is the story of the last six days. “She said.
“Ten days ago I discovered that my husband was having an affair; the last one of many as I soon discovered. I searched his papers and found correspondence with his family’s solicitor. My husband was arranging to change his will and exclude me from his family’s business inheritance. I was to be left our house with its large mortgage. His two sisters, who had a small share in the business, knew about this. They were to be named as beneficiaries in his new will.
“I had a strong coffee with a few drops of brandy and analysed my position. As my husband had a weak heart the inheritance factor could occur at any time. I decided he was not going to change the will. After cheating and money, golf was his big passion. That night we had quite a few drinks in the dining room after which he retired to bed and fell into a deep, alcoholic, snoring sleep. I rounded up his prized expensive, and specially imported from the States, golf clubs. Together with his silver trophies and golfing photos, I placed them in a pile in the back garden under our bedroom window. I went back into the house and waited.
“Next morning I heard him stirring. I went out to the pyre, poured the petrol, stood well back and flicked the lighted match. The whoosh was followed by a lovely bright orange flame and crackling splintering sounds. I threw a stone against the bedroom window. A few seconds later a face appeared. The face was red with the mouth wide open. It uttered, forgive me Father, a God awful scream. A few minutes later he was in the garden. He staggered over to the fire. He looked at me and then at the twisted burning spluttering fire. Before he could ask why? I removed my wedding ring, threw it in the fire and told him I knew about the affairs and the will and that he would never change the will. He went grey, grasped his head and fell. I had the wheel- barrow ready and handy. With his stumbling, and using the spade as a lever, I wheeled him to the car, pushed him into the passenger seat and slammed the door. One last look at the fire, then we were off to the hospital. I drove fast, braking often. He rolled onto the floor, his head staring up me. I reminded him of his constant nagging about my driving but, not to worry, this was his Journeys End. I informed him, Father, that I would sit by him in the hospital and make sure he couldn’t change the will. I would have his money, our money, and have his remains cremated and his ashes sent to his mistresses.
“That’s it, Father. I’ll be off to make the arrangements. I assume The Seal of The Confessional applies here.”
She then blew out the two red candles. “Oh by the way” she said “, he hated candles. They aggravated his smokers cough. Poor man, he should have quit long ago.”