It was here. The day she had dreaded for the last six months. Today an era would end, and she was not ready. She was not ready for the certain loneliness that would follow such a devastating tragedy. Somehow, everything was moving in slow-motion, although she could not have been moving any faster. She had to get there in time. Her breath caught in her throat as she ran, stumbling to get to the car. She was torn between feelings of shock and numbness and overwhelming emotion, hit by them all at once. How could this be happening? It was not supposed to be like this. They were supposed to have years left together, not hours. There was still so much they needed to do together, so many plans that had not yet been carried out, so many conversations left to have. So much had been put off until later, with the assumption that there would be a later to experience together. Soon, all that would be left would be memories and pictures in carefully labeled photo albums. She was not okay with that. She felt helpless, unable to do anything to stop the inevitable marching of time, no matter how badly she wanted to. Oh, how she wanted to. She would never feel as alone as she would in the days, weeks, months that followed. Nothing would ever be the same again. Sure, she would learn to live with the pain, but it would never go away, not really. The pain would strike like a cobra at odd times in waves, triggered by a picture or a word or a smell or nothing at all. It would always be there, lurking in the shadows at the back of her mind. With time, however, she might grow to enjoy the pain, in a way. It would ensure the remembrance of the one she loved and chase away any doubts of the love that she would always have for them. Love and memories would be her lifeline, protecting her from drowning in the pain.
As she drove towards the hospital, memories flashed through her mind, images of Thanksgiving dinners and days at the park and vacations to the beach. Lazy afternoons and late nights watching television in the sunroom. These, along with many, many others, played over and over in her mind as hot tears dripped from the ends of her eyelashes to her cheeks. She silently begged God for mercy, begged Him not to take this life yet. We are not done yet, she thought. In a way, her grief and prayers were selfish. She was begging God to keep someone in a world where they were in pain instead of being purely glad that they would soon be in a place where they would no longer feel any pain or sorrow.
She found it hard to breathe as she pulled into the parking lot of the hospital. She struggled to compose herself, wanting to be strong for the one waiting for her. She had long since memorized the turns to take that would lead her to the right room. As she turned the last corner, she saw the rest of her family waiting there for her. At the sight of their somber faces, she had to fight harder and harder to keep the burning tears under control. “She wants to see you,” they told her. She walked into room and inwardly sobbed as she looked at the frail old lady in the hospital bed. Outwardly she pasted on her brightest smile and spoke in the most cheerful voice she could muster. They only spoke with each other for a few minutes, but it felt like an eternity. There were so many things left to say, yet she could not remember a single one. Many words went unspoken but understood that afternoon.
As the conversation came to a close, her throat tightened up and she could not help the tears that slowly started to run down her cheeks.
“Why are you crying?” the old lady asked. She found herself unable to answer the question. She just shook her head and held the woman’s hand even tighter.
It had started off as beautiful day. The sun was shining and the birds were singing. Flowers were in bloom and leaves flew through the air, riding the cool breeze. When she woke up, she had been thankful for the beautiful day. Now, the beautiful day seemed cruel, a stark comparison to the state of her emotions. It felt like the world was mocking the storms that raged inside of her. Were days like this not supposed to be dark, gloomy, and altogether depressing?
Before she knew it, it was time to leave. It was time to say the last goodbye.