Signs of Life

The IV bagged dripped itself empty and no one noticed. The nurse came in checked on the patient in the next bed, and wished him a good night. Hours passed and the drugs gradually wore down as Burt Shelton finally showed signs of life. He could barely see anything around him, but he felt himself coming back to the living. The heavy metal door was open and there was a light coming in from down the hall. He heard nurses chatting and an occasional phone ring.

He shifted slowly in the bed and realized he was naked beneath the white sheets. He rubbed his tired eyes and tried to straighten himself out. His mouth was dry, but he wasn't at all thirsty. He wanted to call down for a nurse, but words couldn't form. Even the hack had a silence to it. His sheets were wet, but there was no chill so the need for warmth simply did not exist.

Shelton only remembered the nausea that plagued him several weeks ago, but that had not lasted for too long. He didn't remember the last time he put something in his stomach, but he wasn't hungry either. Everything was just so odd.

As Shelton moved he felt the left side of the bed sinking in a bit as if someone sat down. He would have been startled under normal circumstances, but the oddity of everything happening put him at ease.

There was a figure sitting there almost hunched over. He lowered the sheet to remove his hand so that he could reach out.

“Rest Burt,” said a calm, soothing voice.

“Joanne?”

“It's me,” she whispered.

“Joanne, my God,” he said in a half whisper as his breathing labored. He tried to move closer to her but he couldn't. He blinked several times until there was some sort of focus. It was enough for him to see her.

“I'm here, Burt.”

He was able to draw enough strength to reach for her face and she took his hand and kissed the back side.

“I missed you,” he said.

“I missed you too sweetie.”

“I've waited so long to be with you,” he said. “I am ready for the journey.”

“Burt,” she said still holding on to his hand. “God sent me. He wants you to keep fighting to live. It's not your time to die.”

“I was lonely Joanne,” he said softly. “And I miss you so much, it hurts.”

“Trying to take your life is a sin,” she said with a nervous tone to her voice. “You must understand that Burt.”

Shelton could say nothing to her at that moment. Slowly his eyes adjusted and he could see his wife so much better. “You left me after fifty one years of marriage.”

“It was my time,” she replied. “And trust me Burt, everyone will die. Just don't rush it. If you feel the pain of loneliness, talk about me. Tell everyone how we met. Tell everyone how so very attractive I was.”

Shelton giggled.

She laughed.

Shelton shifted again in bed, resting his head on the pillow, relaxing as his muscles unclenched and his body felt refreshed. “You look wonderful, Joanne.”

“A wrinkled prune,” she said.

“Yeah, you did start to wrinkle first.”

She smiled.

“Thank you for visiting, Joanne.”

“I'll be in your heart while you are alive Burt,” she said. “Don't ever try to take your life again. If you do I'll come back, but I'll also bring a big stick with me and pound some sense into you.”

Shelton laughed uncontrollably. “Since we first met you threaten to knock sense into me with a big stick. It was always an empty threat.”

“I remember your puppy eyes looking at me when I use to say that,” she answered. “I didn't have the heart. But now I'll go at you like a angry hornet.”

Shelton continued to laugh.

“Mr. Shelton?”

Shelton turned toward the other side of the bed and saw the nurse standing there. He looked at her face and she was smiling ear to ear. “Yes.”

“Welcome back,” she half shouted. “Hey guys Mr Shelton is awake! He is awake!”

Shelton turned back to where his wife was sitting, but she was no longer there. “Joanne?”

“Yes,” the nurse replied.

He looked at her name tag and Joanne was her name too.

Shelton just smiled.







#

© 2016 Frank Atanacio

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Comments 42 comments

Ericdierker profile image

Ericdierker 8 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

How really cool. This one will stay with me for awhile. So many questions.


clivewilliams profile image

clivewilliams 8 months ago from Nibiru

Nicely done, he just wanted to be with his love. Sad but life goes on


Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 8 months ago from Shelton Author

thank you Eric and Clive for being the first to my life signs :)


billybuc profile image

billybuc 8 months ago from Olympia, WA

There are a lot of creative writers who could learn volumes from your opening paragraphs...that's where a good writer hooks his readers, and you do it with flare.


Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 8 months ago from Shelton Author

thank you so much Billybuc.. bless you


always exploring profile image

always exploring 8 months ago from Southern Illinois

This was great Frank. A bit of reincarnation which I wonder about sometimes. You set the scene up perfectly for the surprise ending. I loved it...


Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 8 months ago from Shelton Author

thank you always for checking out my signs of life


savvydating profile image

savvydating 8 months ago

I loved this. Now Mr. Shelton has hope. He will never have to consider taking his own life ever again. He can be an inspiration to others, knowing that life is worthwhile.

Beautifully written. Love the way you form words together to create such lovely prose.


Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 8 months ago from Shelton Author

what a very nice comment savvydating


manatita44 profile image

manatita44 8 months ago from london

So sweet, Bro. A lot of sweetness and light humour in this one. Well done!


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 8 months ago from England

Wonderful! that brought tears to my eyes! what a great story, nell


Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 8 months ago from Shelton Author

thank you manatita and Nell Rose for visiting my life signs :)


Dana Tate profile image

Dana Tate 8 months ago from LOS ANGELES

Very touching. When I was taking care of an aunt who was on hospice we spoke a lot about death. I remember saying to her. "Now, you know there is no need to fear death, because all of our relatives that you know will come great you and you will recognize them" she nodded and it seemed to give her some comfort. It is encouraging to know that even when our loved ones pass before us we are still connected; and , that death does not break the connection.


Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 8 months ago from Shelton Author

Thank you so much Dana Tate for reading and sharing your story too :)


Jodah profile image

Jodah 8 months ago from Queensland Australia

This was a beautiful and expertly told story Frank. Well done.


Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 8 months ago from Shelton Author

thank you Jodah


Faith Reaper profile image

Faith Reaper 8 months ago from southern USA

Oh, Frank, this one is extra special and sweet. I believe Shelton will be able to hang on until God is ready for him with the hope of seeing his beloved Joanne.

This one touched my heart deeply. They say that losing a spouse is one of the hardest things for a spouse to go through and endure. I can imagine how hard it is for the one still here but the spouse who went on first wouldn't want his or her spouse to not try to be happy in this life until they see each other again.

Clever spin on the ending, as always.

Peace and blessings to you there in nutmeg land


Phyllis Doyle profile image

Phyllis Doyle 8 months ago from High desert of Nevada.

Beautiful story to touch the heart and believe in life and a love that is eternal. Well done, Frank.


tsmog profile image

tsmog 8 months ago from Escondido, CA

Well liked prose sharing a message with its own delight. Taking it with me today. Thanks!


Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 8 months ago from Shelton Author

Faith thank you for the continue faith you have in my flash bits... you are an amazing virtual friend and God blessed you so big time..:) Take care of yourself and your family...:) Frank


Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 8 months ago from Shelton Author

Thank you Phyllis and tsmog for stopping by :)


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 8 months ago from Mechanicsburg, PA

You really packed a lot of meaning into this short story. For those with ears to hear there's a lot to chew on (how's that for mixing metaphors?). I enjoyed reading it.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 8 months ago from The Caribbean

The most beautiful visit with Death, but it's not his time, and the love of his love shows up to make that clear. Really beautiful!


Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 8 months ago from Shelton Author

thank you Ron for stopping by


Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 8 months ago from Shelton Author

Thank you MsDora for reading my signs :)


Missy Smith profile image

Missy Smith 8 months ago from Florida

This is a different side of you, Frank. That sentimental side I always knew you had. This was a beautiful story. I sometimes think of how lonely I am, and it's hard to know I will probably be single and die alone. Honestly, I have to say I understand loneliness like Burt, and have thought about how it would be a relief to leave here. However, as I read, I also thought, how could someone want to do this to themselves when they had fifty years of bliss with someone who truly loved them, but then that's the ironic part isn't it? The part that made me understand how the being with someone and losing them after so many years, could be lonelier than never knowing that kind of love at all. What a tearjerker!


Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 8 months ago from Shelton Author

Yes Missy there is irony in your comment.. bless you.. you have your children having said that.. you will never be alone..


Shyron E Shenko profile image

Shyron E Shenko 8 months ago

Frank, this is such a wonderful story of Lonely Pain, It is good that Burt is back until it is his time, we are all terminal, but not at the same time and not when we are inclined. Everything and everyone has a purpose.

Blessings my friend.


FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 8 months ago from USA

Oh, if everyone could have that bond. Very eerie yet touching too.


Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 8 months ago from Shelton Author

thank you so much Shyron and Flourish for stopping by and reading my signs of life.. bless you both :) Frank


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 8 months ago from Houston, Texas

Now this was fabulous and very believable. So many of the reports of near death experiences have people seeing their loved ones. That is so reassuring and nice to contemplate. Happy to share!


Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 8 months ago from Shelton Author

Peggy W thank you so much for reading my signs


mckbirdbks profile image

mckbirdbks 8 months ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

Hello Frank. This is a new direction, and new softer tone than I am use to reading when visiting your writing. Your story had a smooth flow to it and you handled the choices you faced well.


aviannovice profile image

aviannovice 8 months ago from Stillwater, OK

This was amazingly wonderful. I love the two dimensional setting, as well as what little was learned. It was just enough.


Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 8 months ago from Shelton Author

thank you so much mckbirdbks and aviannovice for reading my signs of life :)


Kathleen Cochran profile image

Kathleen Cochran 8 months ago from Atlanta, Georgia

Oh, my God. No words. You've said it all for those who have been through this in life.

Sharing.


Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 8 months ago from Shelton Author

thank you Kathleen


Cyndi10 profile image

Cyndi10 8 months ago from Georgia

Such a sweet story. This is different for you - no blood and gore. However, it is still expertly told, as you write so well, drawing your readers into your character's point of view. His longing for his wife is palatable. I'm glad this one has a happy ending. Take care!


wingedcentaur profile image

wingedcentaur 8 months ago from That Great Primordial Smash UP of This and That Which Gave Rise To All Beings and All Things!

Nice change of pace here, Frank. This story is... dare I say it, actually touching. You know, I always love it when the vision fuses seamlessly back into reality. I'm talking about the "Joanne" name thing---his dead wife and the nurse who takes her place in time and space.

Well done!


Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 8 months ago from Shelton Author

Cyndi good to see you and thank you for stopping by... Winged.. I really appreciate your visits always a fan of yours bless you bro :)


anemixflarie profile image

anemixflarie 4 months ago

Loved it, I can relate to Burt, the need to see ones loved ones again, but as Joanne said we must keep fighting, its not our time to die.

keep sharing such great work! :) thank you for that.


Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 4 months ago from Shelton Author

thank you anemix..:)

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