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William and Sierra
Prologue to something larger
William and Sierra were married for 25 years when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Six months and a double mastectomy later, as she lay on her deathbed, she turned to him with her sunken eyes, the light nearly gone. Her voice, barely above a whisper, was raspy, her breath ragged.
“Promise me”, she said as she struggled to breath. She stopped.
“Promise me”, she began again, “you will follow your dream…and…go …(deep breath) back to school”.
She looked at him with pleading eyes as another spasm of pain racked her cancer-ravaged body. He held her hand, tears streaming down his face. He was able to cry because their sons were not there. They couldn’t see their mother like this. In spite of what he was witnessing, he just looked at her with complete joy and rapture at his beautiful wife.
“Promise me”, she again implored him, fear now gripping her. She looked off to the side and managed a weak smile as she saw her parents standing there. There was nothing wrong with her mind. Her parents had passed on 15 years ago in a terrible, fiery car accident. She started crying, as she knew why they were there. William, was oblivious to her visitors – seeing only her tears. He was moved beyond words.
“I promise”, he said weakly.
She turned and looked at him, managing a wane smile.
“I love you”, she said.
Another spasm followed by a fit of raspy coughing.
“I love you too”, he said and squeezed her hand.
She turned to look at her parents again, smiled and nodded. She looked one last time at her husband and mouthed “thank you”.
With that, she looked at her parents, took one last breath, closed her eyes, and was gone.
Gripping her hand tightly in hers, not wanting to let it go, he closed his eyes and sobbed. He no longer cared who saw him crying. His beloved was finally free of her pain and suffering and he was grateful for that. However, that knowledge did little to comfort him now. One by one, the machines started sounding their alarms. As the nurses and doctors came running, they realized that there was no resuscitating her. Julie, who was her nurse on duty, turned off the alarms and instructed the CNA which was on duty to summon the hospital Chaplain. William was still holding his wife’s hand so tightly his knuckles were turning white. He started shaking with a hundred emotions running through him. Julie put her arm around his shoulders and gently tried to get him to leave the room. As Dr. Ishikawa came into the room, he looked with pity on William. Placing a hand on his shoulder, he gently told him that he needed to wait in the waiting room for patient’s families. Without saying a word, Dr. Ishikawa helped William to stand. Just then Father Donahue took over and led a grieving William to the chapel. Stepping toward the body, Dr. Ishikawa put the stethoscope on various places on her chest and side. Listening carefully for what seemed like several minutes, he declared her deceased at exactly 21:47.
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