Note: I had this idea for an entry after I submitted to the contest. Just going to post it here.
This just may devour us both
I watched the light fade from his eyes as if it were never really there to begin with. When it'd first started, I wanted to chase the light; I wanted to scold it and make it stay. No one had given it permission to leave. But, I could only watch.
Even though he'd lost that light, he still tried to smile. He'd order me out of the room a lot, to get him water; the chemo made him thirsty all the time. I think it was in those times that he lost his smile. He knew when I wasn't in the room, he didn't have to keep it. He was trying for me, I think.
But even before I could blink, the smile started to leave too. It just became too much for him to keep up. I told him that I would keep hope for the both of us. He'd shake his head, or at least attempt to. Movements made him so weak.
In those moments, I wanted to curl up next to him. I wanted to wrap my arms around his now fragile body and just hug him until the pain would stop. It wasn't fair that he would be swallowed alive by this awful disease, and the only thing I could do was get him a glass of water.
Speaking of, he couldn't hold the cups anymore. The action of lifting the glass to his face was really just too much. Even sucking from a straw left him gasping for the air that he was consistently robbed of. The nurses came in and attached an IV to him, making sure he'd get fluids.
It never seemed to really satisfy him, though. He wanted to have the liquid flow over his lips, past his tongue and lunge into his throat as he swallowed it down. I started putting chapstick on his lips, because they were so horribly chapped and dry. Even talking left a new crack in his lips.
Talking. Oh the talking. I missed it so much when he decided he didn't want to do it anymore. I longed to hear his voice like a newborn kitten longed to be with its mother at all times. I couldn't tell him that, though. I didn't want him to be in any more pain than he was. If talking caused him pain, why put him through it?
I never let him see me frown or cry. I kept my attitude upbeat. If I was cheerful, maybe the pain would ease up for him. I could never tell. His eyes remained dull, his face remained in a perpetual frown, and his body remained still.
I never left his side, though. I'd bring my laptop into the room and just sit next to his bed, typing away. I could feel him watch me. Even though he never said anything, he loved to watch me create. Whenever I was done, I'd read out loud what I'd written, holding his hand the entire time. When I wasn't creating, my hand was glued to his.
His hands. I loved his hands. They were strong artist hands. His long fingers still seemed to have clay lodged in every nook and cranny, even though he hadn't thrown a pot in about a year now. His hands remained soft, even if all they ever did was seem to grow cold.
That was something I never used to associate with him. Cold. He was always warm and bubbly. I was usually the one who people thought of as the cold one. It wasn't that; I just preferred to watch people more than I preferred to interact with them. They never understood why I would just sit there with a notebook, scribbling something I wouldn't allow them to see.
He would, though. He'd laugh for hours and hours at how accurate I described someone, even if I didn't know them.
I used his laughter to keep me happy. To keep me upbeat. Along with his voice, I missed it. He used to believe that laughter was the best medicine. Now? Cracking a smile was something that only I did. Even when I told him something funny. He didn't react; he just listened.
The last day was the hardest. The chemo had stopped working months ago, and he just was getting worse and worse. I knew he only had a couple hours left with me. He seemed to know it too. Even though it hurt him, he'd occasionally squeeze my hand, letting me know he was still there. I wouldn't allow my cheerful facade to leave. He had to know that even in the darkest of the hours, I still would have hope.
Before he died, he allowed himself to speak. He told me that I should never stop creating. That listening to my creations kept him alive much longer than he ever would have thought. He told me that I should go out there and make someone as happy as I made him. That even though this was the end, it was a new beginning of a new chapter for the both of us.
In his final breaths, he whispered that he loved me. I choked it back out to him as he died. The tears started to fall as the registered nurse ran into the room, knowing he was dead too.
The tears didn't stop. My body shook with them for days. I tried to get them to stop. I tried scolding myself. I had to be strong for him. Just because he was gone, that didn't mean that I had to stop. But it never worked. All I could do was sob.
At his funeral, I delivered the eulogy. I imagined that I was back by his side, holding his hand. That carried me through, allowing me to read it clearly, keeping my tears in check. Not everyone else, though. Even the priest started to cry.
As I grabbed a shovel to toss dirt onto his lowered casket, his words rang in my head. A new beginning. The old ending had been horrific, but that's why a fresh start was needed. I smiled to myself about how he managed to be right, even though he was dying.
For him? I'm starting over. We both need to see me truly happy.