He knew the end was near, had started preparing for it: changed all the tires and light bulbs; procured a few bonds; concluded repairs to the house; and revised his will. All of that hurt more than the diagnosis, the sickness that followed it, and the sacrifices that choked the joy from our souls. It hurt more than the discussions with friends, the weekly trips to physicians and stage-3 specialists, and stumbling upon clumps of hair in the bathroom, dropped like hushed wishes.
It hurt most because he was accepting the end, with welcome… and because it was never up to me. My life was about to change forever. That scared me. In the last thirty-six years, I’d grown dependent on Henry. What was I going to do without him?
I sat next to his hospital bed watching the snowflakes fall like broken butterflies. They twirled to the ground as silent as the vacuum of space he would soon reside in. I knew they were going to take Henry away from me tonight. Down into the cold ground where darkness swallowed everything. He would go with them, by hand.
Henry studied me, his eyes unusually steady. “You did all that you could.”
“It wasn’t enough.”
He blinked my comment away. “It doesn’t matter how old you are, Joyce. One life is never enough time.”
“Skip misses you. He sleeps on your side of the bed now and waits for you by your chair. What should I tell him?”
“That’ll I’ll see him soon.”
At that, I wept. An hour later, Henry’s eyes closed for the last time. I went outside, into the majestic cruelty of the snow’s storm, and tried to catch as many snowflakes as I could.