THE LAST FAREWELL

Joan Stephens


His once strong hand laid almost lifeless in hers. Gently she rubbed the furry back feeling the heat radiating from it, hoping against hope to feel a response, even the slightest contraction of a muscle, but no, there was no response. He was burning up and nothing they had done seemed to have any effect on the dangerously high fever.

He had finally met an illness that he could not vanquish, and though he had fought a valiant battle against it, Geoffrey, who had become the tunnel worldís doctor after Fatherís passing, had told her that it was only a matter of time. She was too tired even to cry. She had fought the battle with him, only to watch him slowly lose to an enemy that was stronger than he.

While she had been gone to relieve herself he had been restless, moving his head back and forth on the pillow, mussing his hair. Reaching up, she brushed a strand of iron grey hair from his forehead. She hated to leave him, but when nature called, there was nothing she could do. No one else could take her place; he needed her beside him.

Wearily she laid her head on the thin, wasted, and prominently veined hand and closed her eyes, willing him to hear her thoughts. "Donít leave me, love," she begged. "I donít know if I can go on without you." There was no answer, but she hadnít really expected one. He was busy fighting for his life.

Suddenly, his hand moved slightly under her head, and raising her eyes to his glistening, fever ravaged face, she found his eyes fastened on her. He smiled the small smile that she loved so much and sighed deeply. He licked his lips. Quickly she took the glass of water on the bedside table and, raising his head, held it to his mouth. After a sip of water, he smiled at her again. "I love you," he whispered.

She could see in his eyes that he was giving up the battle, that he was too tired to fight anymore, and she shook her head in denial. "No, love, no."

He nodded slightly and closed his eyes, unable to watch her come to the realization that he would really leave her, that something more powerful than their love was calling him away from her.

As tears streamed down her face, she raised his hand to rub her cheek against it, and she felt him slowly begin to withdraw from her. "Wait!" she cried. "Iím coming with you."

"No, love, stay," she heard his beloved voice command her through their bond. "Stay for the children. They will need you now more than ever. They will need your courage, your guidance, and your strength. Stay. I will wait for you on the other side. It wonít be long until we are reunited again. Remember: I love you through all of eternity." His voice slowly faded away, and where he had dwelt for so many long years became an empty, yearning void. She felt cold as if the light of the sun had disappeared from her world. Hugging herself, she stared at his lifeless body unable to believe that the man she had loved for close to sixty years was gone, that that vital, energetic being was, at last, still. Rising to her feet, she leaned over him and, bending down, kissed his cooling lips one last time. "Wait for me, my love; Iíll come to you soon. My love goes with you wherever your final journey takes you."

Straightening up, she turned to the curtained doorway that hid their children from her. She squared her shoulders and prepared to tell them that their beloved father had quietly and peacefully passed away. She would cry tomorrow.

Fini

This was written shortly after my husband passed away and is dedicated to his memory.