Mostly Fiction

Portrait: When love is synonymous with goodbye

It was on this day that I knew that my husband could live without me, that he’d be able to move on, to heal, and maybe even fall in love again. The past few months have been hell, I have been watching him, coming into my room to check on me, and for the first few days, it felt like he was the one who was dying. I didn’t like how he looked at me, where there used to be love, there was now pity, and a deep sorrow. It was as if he was teaching himself to say goodbye, he was allowing himself to let go. We both knew that I was dying, I had given up hope as soon as the doctor came back with my results. The months following that were torture. Sometimes I’d get up in the middle of the night feeling so sick that I’d be convinced that today is the day. I had so many close encounters with death, I even jokingly told my husband that it felt like a rehearsal. As the months went by, I got so sick that I had to be hospitalized, and it broke my heart to know that the only way I’m leaving that place is in a coffin. My husband visited me every day.
My pain was overshadowed by my guilt. I’d feel guilty every time he walked into my room, the living have no place with the dead. Sometimes I wanted to tell him that he can go, that he’d honored his vows, only death was doing us apart. It was separating us, piece by piece, it was peeling my existence from his soul, and I did not want to watch that. He held on, by God he kept believing that I was coming back, and it tore me apart. The guilt gripped me when I was alone at night, coughing and vomiting and begging God to take me. When the pain was so excruciating, and I didn’t feel like seeing another day, I saw his face, him walking into my room trying to look cheerful, I felt the warmth where he used to touch my hand, and I couldn’t bear for him to come and be told that I was gone. So I held on, every single day, I braved through the pain, because I never wanted my husband to know how losing me feels like. That was my pain to bear.
The day I realized that he would make it was bittersweet. It gave me peace to know that his entire world wouldn’t fall apart in my absence just as much as it ripped me apart. I didn’t want my husband to suffer the pain of my absence, but I did want him to miss me. There were parts of him that I wanted to belong solely to me. It didn’t occur to me then that the dead can’t feel anything. We were talking the previous night about where i wanted to be buried. He reprimanded me and told me I shouldn’t say things like that, but I told him, that was the reality of our situation. I was dying, and we both had to accept that. I told him to make peace with letting me go, to not feel guilty in any way about going on living without me. I loved my husband, and I knew I couldn’t selfishly hold on to him, we were both in pain, and it was unfair of me to let him die with me. We cried that night, we prayed, and we said all the things our hearts would allow to escape without betraying how scared we both were.
I told him, that he had made everyday of my life worth living. It was a joy waking up next to him, I loved how hazel his eyes looked when they reflected the morning sun. I enjoyed our breakfasts in the garden, when we’d talk about plans for the future, about having children, about moving. I hope he moved away from that house and took me with him. We were always meant to meet, we were always gonna end up together, even if it was for a little while. The time we spent together, however small it was in proportion to the lifetime I lived before we met, felt like eternity. I didn’t understand what it means to spend the rest of your life with someone until I met him. It felt like I was born again, like I was starting a whole new life. Our love was my life.
What he told me broke my heart. He spent the night in the hospital, crying, begging me not to say goodbye to him, not to talk about him falling in love again. I held my husband in my frail dying arms that night, and I was grateful for every breath I took, every day that I spent being loved by this man. He told me he’d miss me, he said our house feels empty without me, almost foreign. He had lost every reason to call it home. He said that home is where the sound of my laughter permeates every room, where our bedroom smells like my perfume, where the other side of the bed has me in it. He told me he’d spend forever in that cold, uninviting hospital because that’s where his home was. “Wherever you go I’ll go. I’d rather sleep with you on a hospital bed, hold you, chase all your nightmares away, than spend forever searching for your face among the crowd. I met every part of myself I was running from when I met you, and I don’t know how to begin going on without you. I know you’re in pain, I see it everyday when I walk in through that door, my heart breaks when the nurses tell me about how much pain you were in during the night. I’m selfishly holding on to the last pieces of your dying soul, because I cannot bear to not have you. I know you are dying, I see the life being squeezed out of you, but my heart selfishly keeps holding on. My heart keeps longing for the way you look at me, your smile, the notes you’d leave me in the morning when I woke up without you by my side. I check everyday for your notes, even though I know you’re here, my heart still longs for you.”

I cried that day, and my husband said that this felt like goodbye. I told him I’ll forever be with him, but he had to let me go, now, while it was still possible to put the pieces of his life back together. I asked him to let me go before things unravel and he can’t find his way out.

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