The Dying Room
The dying room was oblong and small with a window at one end near a small sink and counter. I followed while the nurses pushed my wife’s hospital bed into the room and placed it near the window. I sat down next to the bed in the only chair, and reached for my wife’s hand. One nurse stayed in the room with us.
Sallie’s eyes were closed and her breathing was shallow. I knew it would not be long. I was terrified. How could I go on without her? How could I raise the children alone? Who would be there to tell me that my tie did not match my shirt when I dressed in the morning? Who would be there to listen to all my problems with parents, teachers and children? I felt tears coursing down my cheeks, and I stifled sobs.
Suddenly, Sallie opened her eyes. She reached her hand up and touched the tears on my face.
"You said you would not cry," she said smiling.
"I lied," I answered.
"You promised to go ahead with life and to not grieve."
" I lied," I said again.
"Our love should sustain you...not destroy you." she continued.
"I know, but its going to be hard to...go ahead."
"You can do it," she replied. "You’re a strong man. You always held everything together for all of us. We relied on you....Don’t let us down....You can’t give up now."
I was strong because you were there to love me. I don’t know how I can be strong without you in my life. I need your support to be steadfast."
"Remember all we talked about," she said weakly.
I still had the two pages in my pocket and I pulled them out to show her. Before she began to enter the dying period we talked about what I should do after she had gone. I wrote down the things I needed to do from raising the children, to when to buy our daughter a hope chest, to planning a funeral and what to do with the insurance money. She had given me a guide that I new would help me through the dark days ahead.
She rubbed my tear streaked cheeks and said quietly, "I love you."
Then she closed her eyes and lowered her hand. I reached for her hand and held it tight.
We sat still for a few moments. Suddenly, I knew she was gone. We had been together too long and were too much in love for me not to know when she had left. I rose, went to the window, and opened it. Fresh air drifted into the room. It was heavily scented from magnolia blossoms from a tree near the building. The nurse checked for vital signs. She looked up and asked. "Why are you opening the window?"
"I’m letting her soul go free. When someone dies you should always open the window and let their soul out so it can go back to God." I saw tears in the nurses eyes. She turned back to her work and I leaned against the window frame. Tears were now flooding down my face and I openly sobbed. For the first time in years I was alone. I was terrified.
The doctor came in and talked with the nurse. He came up to me and asked, "Are you alright?"
I nodded and we talked for a few moments before he left the room. The nurse had covered Sallie’s body with a blanket leaving her face and arms exposed. "You should leave now, Dave" she said.
"I can’t just leave her," I said.
Dave, I’ve watched you and Sallie for the past week. You want to pay tribute to her by going ahead now and doing the things you have to do. You have to go home and tell the children."
"I know," I answered.
I walked over to the bed and took Sallie’s hand. I felt her wedding ring there. I kissed her check. It was soft and warm, I lifted her in my arms, held her limp form against my chest and wept. Then I released her and turned away. Somehow I had to be strong. It was time to go ahead with life. I left the room and walked down the sickly green corridor. I stepped outside and walked toward the car. I saw the window was open and the light was still on in the dying room.
There was a bench near a small fountain at the edge of the parking lot. I sat down and dried my eyes. Suddenly, I head the nurse call my name. She ran up to me and handed me my wife’s wedding ring.
"You forgot this, Dave," she said.
I took the ring and put it in my pocket.
"You going to be alright?" the nurse asked.
"Yes. I’m okay."
"I’ve seen this happen so many times. It is not easy to lose your partner. I don’t know what I would do if Tom died. But there is one thing you need to think about along with your grief."
"Along with your sadness you should thank God for your years together. You have been given a priceless gift. That thought should sustain you. Showing gratitude helps. I see your situation all the time. Most people get so caught up with grief that they forget to thank God for the love they had. Think about that, Dave."
We talked for a few minutes before she went back to the hospital. I started to cry again but this time the tears felt different. The nurse was correct in saying that I should be grateful as well as sad. I cried tears of both sadness and gratitude. I thanked God for my marriage and our life together, and I knew I could go on now. I had to pay tribute to our love and I knew where to begin. It was time to go home and comfort the children
I looked up at the dying room. The window was closed and the light was out.