“Some days are more difficult,” Josh said.
“Is it pain?”
Josh’s wife, Emily, slid her hands behind his head and pulled him toward her. She held him close, her breasts soft comfort. Behind him, one-handed, she fluffed the pillows, one, two, three, just the way he liked them before lowering him back down. “I didn’t think you felt much pain,” she added, although she felt her own, a distinct tug deep in her chest.
“I don’t feel physical pain, really,” Josh murmured. “It’s mental, I guess . . . in my head.”
Emily sighed. She knew where this conversation was going. They had been there before a few times, but only briefly, their words, spoken quietly, quickly, and then evaporating like broken bubbles into thin air, leaving silence, a grave specter hovering between them.
“I’m not sure what it will be like.” Josh’s eyes grew glassy. Angry, red welts on his arms, legs, and torso already had betrayed him. Was he afraid?
“No one does,” Emily mumbled somewhat inanely, unsure how else to respond. If only I could change places. I love him so much.
“Sometimes I wish I could just get it over,” Josh said. His voice was hoarse and his eyes, red-rimmed, roamed the corners of the room, searching. “I’m tired, Em, and I’m tired of waiting.”
He was speaking more to himself than to his wife, whose heart quivered. Me too. How could she possibly think such a thing? At moments such as this, though, she wished more than anything that she had the power to erase his pain, to ease his fears, to stop the waiting.
“It will be over soon.” The words slipped out before she could pull them back. She bit her lip.
Josh closed his eyes and mouthed the words, “It will.” He was silent for a several seconds before whispering, “I don’t want to leave you, Em, but I’m so very tired.”
Emily’s throat tightened. She swallowed hard.
“You will never leave me, Josh,” she managed as she sat gingerly on the side of the bed. Cupping his now frail hand in hers, she brought it to her lips and simply held it there before lowering it to her chest. “You are here,” she uttered, “right here in my heart. You are in my mind. I am awash with you. Don’t be afraid.”
People who know me understand why May is not my favorite month, but it is upon us, and with it come vivid memories. While the above scenario is fiction, elements of truth and understanding are underpinnings, for I had similar conversations with my brave son, Alex, before he died of brain cancer on May 24, 2013. Today, as May approaches, my writing reflects my love and grief, as I continue to come to grips with the fact of his passing much too soon.