Short Story-May the Circle Be Unbroken
May the Circle Be Unbroken
The snap of a door echoed in my ears and woke me from my slumber. I took in a long, slow breath. Already, the sting of my old age pulsed through my body. The brightness of the light against the white hospital walls burned my eyes the second I opened them. I winced in pain, wishing that someone had kept the blinds closed.
Squinting through my eyelashes, I scanned the room until I noticed a little color. Slowly, the haze of my old eyes faded away and shapes began to register into my mind.
There were no immediate changes in the room. It was the same dull and empty hospital room that it was before I fell asleep. I turned my body away from the window, trying to block out the sunlight in my eyes, when I noticed something new on the bedside table.
There on the bedside table were several new bouquets of carnations, roses, and daisies. The last thing I noticed on the table was a little pot of forget-me-nots. The plants were so young the buds had not yet flowered.
I smiled warmly at the joke, I was sure it must have been one of the kids' ideas to put them there.
After beaming at the forget-me-nots for a moment, I focused on the bed behind the flowers. A man's face appeared on the forefront of my mind. It was the face of the man who recently slept in that bed. My broken mind started piecing together information about the man who was so familiar.
I stared at the empty bed for a good long time before remembering that his name was George. Poor George only had one visitor before the cancer in his brain ate him up, and no one was there when he passed on – besides me.
His heart beat monitor beeped steadily just like mine did; when out of the blue, the beeping grew rapid and the man began to choke on his own breath. I hollered for the nurse, and even though half the staff was in the room after he flat-lined, they could not save him. George's death shocked the whole building. Several nurses were teary and were trying to tell me he was just going to the hospital – but I know a dead man when I see one. I also know what the man who owns the morgue down the street looks like. He is not someone I could forget, especially now.
No one really knows what caused George to choke, although I quickly learned what it might have been. Ever since they hooked me up to the monitors, I noticed a lump developing in my throat. The lump started to be such a bother the odds of me choking on my own breath seemed a good possibility.
To think, just last week I prayed with George and he asked God into his heart. It was a victory I had not seen coming; and at this moment, I hope was not in vain.
My spirit has been broken because I was hoping to see someone in my family here today, not just flowers. My family had not been here for weeks. I began to believe my family was just too far away to make it here before I passed on. Each breath taxed my will to continue and sent me closer to dying just as George did – alone and scared.
My heart pounded painfully when that thought settled. I clutched my chest tightly as the beeping grew rapid on the monitor. It took about a minute before I was able to calm my breathing down, and the pain eased.
"Dear, Lord... just let me go." I prayed silently. It was at that moment that I literally gave up. I tried holding my breath; and, for about eight seconds I pulled it off. It only took that long before I became dizzy and gave up. It made me appreciate that it takes much more willpower not to breathe than it does to sniff air through the tube in my nose.
My head was still spinning when I heard a voice outside of my room. Opening my eyes, I noticed a woman peeking through a window in the door.
"He's awake." I heard her say behind the glass.
The woman opened the door and walked in. I gazed at her skeptically when all of a sudden, in trailed a nine-year-old girl.
The room blossomed with color the moment that the young girl entered. She sort of half walked, half skipped through the doorway behind the woman. The girl's hair was so brightly red in the window-light that I thought I was hallucinating. It bounced up and down with each step, and her smile was so big and white I could see it shining even with my blurry vision.
The only reason I reconsidered her being a hallucination was because I was quite certain angels did not wear little pink dresses and sparkly blue shoes.
When my eyes adjusted from the brightness, the freckled, round face of the young girl sparked my memory.
Of course, the sweetly adorned girl was much quicker to the draw.
"Hi Grampa!" She greeted blissfully, stopping at my bedside.
I gazed into her pretty blue eyes, which were wide and adoring; and responded gently. "Hello, little Anna."
I patted the bed next to me. Anna took the gesture and sat down on the bed, where she opened her arms wide for a hug. Holding Anna tight in my arms, I looked up at the woman and still could not remember whom she was.
"Hey, dad." said the woman when our eyes met. I winced, as though the words were a knife.
"Kate?" I asked wondrously.
"Yes, dad, it's me." She smiled warmly.
My mind wandered confusedly. I was so ashamed I forgot my own daughter's face; so as quickly as I could, I diverted the conversation.
"Well, uh – you look different," I muttered. "Why did it take so long to get here?"
"We came in earlier today but you said you wanted to rest. So we..." Started my daughter.
"Wanted to rest!" I barked unbelievably. 'Could I have said such a thing?' I asked myself silently.
All at once, the stress of my voice caused the lump in my throat to expand and I began to choke. The monitor beeped as rapidly as the pain pulsated throughout my body. I instantly started my breathing routine again. The whole time I watched Anna, who was frowning at the monitor, her eyes were dilating.
I knew that it was not normal, especially since the light from the window was straight on her face.
As soon as I steadied my breathing, I grabbed Kate's hand. She faced me, attempting to smile, before her lip quivered and dropped.
"Shut that machine off." I instructed her.
"I don't think I can do..." She started saying.
"Turn it off." I demanded, "It is scaring Ann."
My daughter turned to Anna and understood. She rose from her chair, slowly walked to the other side of the bed and then unplugged the machine. She returned at a snail's pace back to her chair and sat down, hiding her face in her hands.
About a minute later, a nurse came rushing in along with one of her trusty CNA's.
From their expressions, I could tell they were shocked to see my daughter and granddaughter. Apparently, the staff was very busy since they did not see my family coming through the front door. The nurse came around and asked why the monitor was unplugged. I told them why, and let them understand I did not want to go if my family could not be here with me, so I best not wait.
My daughter explained the circumstances, and told the nurse that she was the legal guardian.
"If my father wants this to be his time," my daughter's voice quivered at the words. "Than that is his right."
The nurse looked both sad and unsure of what she should do. She took one look at Anna on the bed beside me. She smiled and waved at Anna. Anna returned the gesture.
A moment later, the nurse and her assistant left through the door. In the instant before the door closed, I could hear someone wailing about cold coffee; however, I no longer cared anymore about all the crazy things I have heard in this place. I was finally with my girls again, and that was the only thing I cared for. Even though I was sure the doctor was being called.
I turned to Anna and tapped her little nose. She was a strong girl. She beamed down at me even with watery eyes. I tapped her nose again and she said, "Stop it, grandpa."
I smiled amiably at Anna, who sniffled and wiped her nose with the back of her hand.
"If you weren't so precious, I could." I said.
After a moment of admiring her beautiful young face, I turned to Kate. She was still hiding her face in her hands. I could tell by her breathing that she was crying.
"Tell momma to come over here." I said to Anna.
Anna did just that. Kate wiped her tears and sat down behind Anna. Anna nestled herself into Kate's arms.
I beamed at the two with admiration. Kate smiled back tearfully, and squeezed my hand.
"Did I tell you about Anna's crush?" Kate asked me. I knew she was trying to keep her mind from the subject at hand. She's done that ever since she was Anna's age.
"No." I answered as little Anna's cheeks flushed.
"Well," Kate started through a sniffle, "There's this Berber boy everyone is talking about."
"Be quiet mom!" Anna yelled aloud, fuming at her mother.
"What?" Kate asked, "You talk about him all the time why can't your grandpa know?"
Anna glared at her mother bashfully.
"You don't know anything." Anna said, crossing her arms and turning to the window. Her face was scarlet, almost the same color of her hair. She may have looked angry, but the fact that she was still in her mother's arms showed that she was only acting this way because she was embarrassed.
My Kate and I looked at each other and chuckled. Children are such funny little things.
"What does he look like?" I asked Anna. Anna's face brightened up like a lamp as she faced me.
"He's really, really cute!" She said excitedly.
I chuckled again.
"I bet he is, Anna. But my granddaughter deserves more than just cute." I said slowly. My voice broke twice while I said it. I fought hard to keep from choking as the lump in my throat tightened again. That was not the only problem; I was having more and more chest pain. I knew my time was running short without the monitors that were keeping my heart at a steady pace.
Kate could tell there was something wrong. Our eyes met and I knew she understood my time was running short. She began to weep silently in an attempt to keep from scaring Anna.
Unfortunately, Anna was a smart little girl. When I turned my attention back on her, I could tell she understood the same thing her mother did. Her blue eyes were also wet with tears.
She looked up at her mother. Kate's silent sentiment, yet obvious emotion, was confirmation of little Anna's fears. She turned back to me with the most heart wrenching expression I ever saw. Her frown was at its max tenor, and snot started running from her nose almost instantly.
My heart pounded at the sight. I rethought my original decision of having Anna here to see me pass on. That was when a familiar tune came into my head.
"Anna." I muttered, "Do you remember that song I use to sing whenever I left on a long mission?"
For a moment, Anna just gazed at me with glassy eyes. Then, her lip quivered and she nodded her head.
"Can you hum it for me?" I asked.
Anna did not respond this time. She just gazed down at me with pouting lips.
I cupped her soft little face in my hand and beamed at her. Then, thumbing over one of her tears, I broke into a familiar hymn; changing a few lines as I went.
"Do not cry my little angel,
I have lived my life away.
It is time for me to go now
Don't you dare be afraid."
"If the circle remains unbroken
You will see me yet again.
Way up high in the heavens,
Where all of God's children live."
"Do not weep my sweet Anna
Save your precious little tears
Don't forget I'm always with you
Forever inside of here."
I finished the hymn and placed my hand over Anna's heart. She broke into a sob and hid her face in my chest. I held her so tightly against me that the thump of her little heart knocked against my ribs. My mouth started to tremble.
I gazed up at my daughter, who was staring at the two of us.
"I love you. Do not be sad." I said, squeezing Kate's hand.
A fresh on-pour of tears broke from her eyes. She made a sort of groaning sound, then bent over Anna and me and held us.
"I love you too, dad." She sobbed.
I held the two of them for long moments. Their warmth soothed my pain and worry.
My breathing was slow and long, but I took in the air with a smile, happy to be sharing it with my two precious girls for these last moments. Gradually, the weight of Anna and Kate began to ease. Their warm, soft touch was the last thought I could remember when suddenly everything went dark, and the insatiable feeling that I was floating entered me.
When my sight returned I could see neither my daughter nor Anna, but I could still feel them next to me. I saw no flowers, no empty beds, no white rooms. Instead, a long and narrow path lay below me. It was gold and edged with white clouds. Ahead of me was the entire timeline of my life, where hundreds of leaves were falling from two trees on opposite sides of the path from each other. The leaves had impressions of my memories on them.
It became instantly clear that on one tree, bad memories fell; and on the other, good ones fell. It seemed that there were about the same amount of leaves falling from each tree. The bad memories were filled with images of worldly things, or times when I was enticed into evil doings and gave in.
As I looked closer, most of the bad memories seemed to be from a time before I was twenty-four. Before the light of God came into my life. Of course, the deeds the Lord put in my path continued to fall from the opposite tree. I kept seeing faces of children and families I have helped. They were all smiling and wide-eyed. I smiled back, happy to see their faces once again.
It was then I noticed something strange, the tree in which the bad memories fell had started burning. Within seconds, the flames consumed it and I watched in awe as it withered away in front of me. Looking down, I noticed that the whole world was right below my feet. I saw my girls, who were holding my lifeless body. For a second I felt sad, but something in me told me that they would be okay. I beamed down at them. I would never miss a moment in their life. I knew that one day we would see each other again.
It was then that I heard the voice of God. I knew it was Him, because the voice boomed all around me and inside of me. It was comforting and beautiful. He said, "Turn around."
Without much ado, I did what I was told. My knees collapsed with what was there.
Not too far in front of me was the end of the narrow path. There, like nothing else imaginable, stood the golden gates of heaven. They were open and inviting. Beyond the gates were vast stretches of clouds and skies, and castles that continued further than the eye could see. It was outside of my imagination and so I knew this was real. There was only one thought in my mind as I looked on... 'It is endless beyond the gates'.
I am endless.