Leaning over, bracing himself on the rails of the hospital bed, he placed a soft kiss on her forehead. Wiping the tears from his eyes yet again, he slowly lowered himself on the chair where he’d made his home for the last month. Watching her slowly fade away.
He felt her wake before she even moved and was waiting eagerly again by her side when her eyes finally opened. She smiled, a weak, but such sweet smile, “Henry,” she whispered, her voice still weak from her illness.
“Yes, love?” He hadn’t been sure he would hear her voice again. The emotion piled up in his throat until he thought he might choke on it. He was so overwhelmed with the feelings of seeing her eyes looking into his again. He tried to still the tears, but to no avail. He let them drop from his eyes as he took her hand and squeezed it.
“Am I still here?” She was confused. His heart plummeted.
“Yes, love, you’re still here, in the hospital. I’m still here, too.” he let loose with a tremulous smile.
“Oh. Talk to me, Henry.” She was pleading with him to talk to her. Just like all of their 58 years of marriage. He smiled. Truly, this time. Of course she would leave this world still asking him to talk to her. She knew that wasn’t his way.
“Love, I’m here. What…” He stopped himself from asking her what she wanted him to say. She hated that. Always had. You’d think he’d have learned after nearly six decades. He chucked to himself, thinking that he’d actually love to hear her scold him one more time. “I love you. I love you so much. I’ve been here the whole time. Even when that nasty nurse tried to bully me, I still stayed.”
She smiled, “You’re so sassy, Henry.”
Ah, so she was back. He felt better already, “Love, would you tell me… I’ve been wondering. What is your fondest memory of us?” He had spent so many of the lonely hours by her bed, wondering if he’d been a good enough husband to her. Remembering all of the failures, all of the times he’d done the wrong thing or been stupid, forgotten their anniversary… little things. Feeling utterly selfish, he wanted to hear from her, one last time before she left this earth, what she remembered. He hoped beyond hope that she would leave remembering him as a good husband.
She closed her eyes and her shallow, raspy breathing was the only sound that filled the room.
A minute passed… perhaps longer.
Henry felt his shoulders sag with defeat. He was too late. This had been the first time she’d been awake enough to even speak. He’d wasted so much time doing and trying and… not sharing. Not talking with her. He’d never know if she was happy to have spent her life with him. It was too much. Still holding her hand, he sat down heavily and rested his head on the cold metal of the bed rail and just let the silent tears fall. He had failed. He felt all of the will just flowing out of him. If he’d failed her… what was it even all about? What was the point?
Suddenly her fingers squeezed his. Lightly, but the pressure was definitely there. He raised his eyes to hers and they were open again. She tried to wet her dry lips and opened her mouth to speak.
“Henry,” her voice was so quiet, he had to strain to hear her. “My greatest memory of my time on this earth…” She coughed and he jumped to his feet. The coughing was so hard on her frail body. He grabbed the cup of water on the side table and held the straw up to her lips and watched her drink and her eyes close again.
He wondered what she was about to say. Was it going to be the memories of their vacations together? Maybe the time they took the kids on that tropical vacation to the Bahamas? Maybe their big anniversary party? Or… she opened her eyes again and smiled.
“Henry, my favorite thing about being married to you is our bedroom,” She smiled, this time with a glint in her eyes. A look he hadn’t seen in a long while, but he was lost. They hadn’t been able to be intimate in years, not since she’d gotten sick.
After a pause, she spoke again, “You know, every night when we went to bed, no matter what your day had been like, no matter how hard things were…” She swallowed and took a deep breath, talking was obviously wearing her down.
“Honey, don’t talk. It’s okay,” he said.
“No. I want to tell you…” She smiled and he felt her fingers squeeze his again. “Every night you came to bed and as soon as your head hit the pillow, you’d let out a big happy sigh and say, ‘Ahhhh. All is right with the world.’ And then you’d say, ‘because I’m here with you, so I know that everything will be okay.’ and then you’d fall asleep. And every morning, when you got out of bed, you’d lean down and kiss me when you thought I was still sleeping and say, ‘I love you’ before you left for work.” She smiled again, the biggest smile he’d seen from her in a good while. It reached all the way to her eyes. “That is my favorite memory Henry. Spending every day with the man who thought I was the best thing that had ever happened to him. You were my world. I couldn’t love you more and I am so glad that I was able to spend my life with you.”
Henry was too choked up to say anything at all. The tears were flowing freely and he felt her hand squeeze his, watching their fingers holding onto one another as the tears feel from his eyes and landed on the aging skin. He swallowed the lump of emotion that was going to leave him a weeping mess and looked at her. She smiled at him one last time and closed her eyes as she left.