Oh, I Thought…
Oh, I thought the end would be different…thought there would be beautiful white light and angels surrounding me. Thought I would see all my dearly departed loved ones – Mater, Gramp, Granddaddy, Grandma, Charley, Nana, Omie, my own lost children – waiting for me in the white mist. Sadly, none of that was true. She was alone. In a colorless, antiseptic-smelling hospital room, her only company a respirator, a heart monitor, and a television somehow stuck on The Golf Channel. Thank goodness the machines cloaked the whispered descriptions of the green.
She looked toward the door. It was almost totally closed, but occasionally, she could sense movement as nurses and doctors hurried down the hall to care for their patients; as flower and balloon-laden visitors wearing worried faces trudged down these halls of pain and hopelessness.
Saddened by all she imagined going on around her, she looked away from the door, turned away from the outside, and focused inward. On her own life, her own trials and tribulations. She moved away painfully but quickly from those, deciding she would rather not waste her last moments on earth in depressed contemplation of all her mistakes and unfulfilled dreams.
Oh, I thought it would be different, here, at the end. Where are the loved ones surrounding me, their whispered words of love and frantic cries for me to stay? She turned away from those thoughts, too, and instead focused on the positive moments in her life. She thought of the day her son was born. Oh, what a scary day that had been, but how happy she had felt when she held him for the first time. Her mind wandered through their life together: his first real laugh had moved her to tears; him bringing a blanket downstairs to her mom’s kitchen and curling up at her feet to sleep; waking up in the night to find him sleeping in her bed next to her or on the floor beside her bed, hand extended so he could touch hers. His high school and college graduations. His hockey days. His wedding. Her grandchildren…She had a smile on her face when she faded to sleep.
A glitch in the respirator’s function brought her awake again, gasping for air. A few tears fell from her eyes as she tried to remain calm and slow her pounding heart. As her heart slowed and her breathing returned to what now passed for normal, her mind wandered over other moments in her life…
Memories of her family – her sister, niece and nephew; her mother and father; her grandparents…
Her students over the years – John, Abel, Latoya, Derricka, Yvonne, Theresa, Spearmint, Phelan, David, Devonn, Anthony, Rachel, George, the children she had worked with while in the Peace Corps…
Her friends – Melanie, Rhonda, Melissa, Mark, Martey, Dev, Greg, Rachel, Michelle…
Her lovers – Jeff, Jamie, Mike, Charley.
Her husbands – Jeff and Mike (a different Jeff and Mike).
And, of course, Michael. Always Michael. Again a few tears fell, and again her breathing caught in her throat, causing her heart to pound.
Oh, I never thought I would die alone, she cried to herself. She stared at the heart monitor, struggling to read the numbers. Her vision was becoming clouded and her worries about the past were fading away. Despite her realization that the numbers on the monitor were slowly creeping downward, a fragile sense of peace settled over her. At last I can rest floated through her mind.
The monitor had slowed to sixteen beats per minute. She could no longer hear anything except her own labored, machine-driven breathing and the ever-so-slow thump of her heart. She closed her eyes in anticipation, only a vague sense of loneliness lingering in her mind for a moment.
As she lay there, waiting for the last beat of her heart to echo in her mind, she sensed someone else in the room. Her eyes fluttered open slowly and she tried to focus at something, some shape that was at the end of her bed.
It took a bit for her sight to clear enough for her to make out the figure she had sensed in the room. Her eyes widened and a smile tried to form on her lips. It was Him. Her angel. The one of whom she had dreamed when she was a little girl. The angel who had promised to protect her, to love her…It was he. Still clothed in white, shoulder length brown wavy hair, blazing blue eyes, and a wonderful, inviting, crooked smile.
She tried to speak but could not. She almost began to cry in frustration when she heard his voice, the most loved voice of her life, in her head, as had been the case when she first dreamed of him.
“Calm down, my love. We don’t need to speak. I hold your soul, have had it in my keeping since the beginning of time. I can hear everything you think…Do not be afraid.”
“But…I am so glad you are here, my angel. I have missed you so and I had hoped I would see you once more before I departed this world.”
“Ah, Rose, you are not alone and never will be again. I have at last come for you, can at last claim you as my own heart, my own soul. For all of the time I have held your soul, you have been the guardian of mine, as well.” He smiled at her.
“Truly?” she thought to him. He nodded.
“I…oh, I thought you had abandoned me long ago. I am so glad you are here. I am not afraid anymore. I’m not even sad. I have had a long, useful and wonderful life filled with love and some truly wonderful people. But I am tired. And I long to rest…and to know that I will be allowed to spend the rest of…I started to say “my life”, but…”
“Rose, you will have much longer than the rest of your life to spend with me. We will be together for the rest of time – and beyond.” Again he smiled at her, and then held out his hand. “Are you ready, my love?”
Rose glanced at the heart monitor and was surprised to see that her vision had cleared enough for her to see that the numbers had stopped moving and the machine was flashing zero. Her hearing had returned, too, and she could now hear the alarm on the heart monitor bleating its urgent message to the world. Glancing to her left, she saw her day nurse come rushing into the room, saw the nurse look for a pulse, then hurriedly press a bedside button, calling for help. The startling sound of the respirator clicking into life again caught Rose’s attention, and suddenly she realized that she was not in the bed anymore. Well, she was, but she was also standing at the foot of her hospital bed, her angel next to her.
More nurses and a doctor came rushing into the room and gathered around her body, feverishly working on her, but she knew they would be unsuccessful. She watched them, fascinated, for a few moments, then turned to her angel.
He looked down at her and smiled, taking her hand. “Are you ready, Rose? Ready to truly begin to live?”
Rose looked back at the empty shell of her body once more, then turned her back on the scene forever. “Oh, Angel. I thought…I thought I would never see you again!” Tears filled her eyes and she squeezed his hand tightly. “Yes, I am ready. Let’s go.”
Her angel smiled his beautiful, crooked smile, kissed her lightly on the lips, and they left the hospital room together.
** This was written in response to a challenge to write a story using the starter, “Oh, I thought…”