July 20th, 2009 7:00am I held her hand and kissed her face with the arrival of a sunny beautiful morning, hoping for a miracle. The shift change was in full swing. Staff checking in, charts being reviewed, doctors and nurses exchanging information; vital signs being verified. Debbie’s breathing is labored as it had been for the last twenty four hours. I never knew if each breath would be her last. The cancer is running its course through her beautiful body at a terrible pace. An aide came in to change the sheets and clean her up. She asked if I would like her to wash Debbie's hair. I pondered the thought for a minute looking at the love of my live and replied in a hushed, choked tone, “She would like that. How long will it take you to change her bed and wash her hair?” She said about fifteen minutes. I stepped out of the room and called her friend Cathey to get an estimated time of arrival. She assured me she would be at the hospital within thirty minutes.
Debbie is in good hands with the aide. I decided to get some air, purchase a coke and have a cigarette. I went to the store with one thought running through my mind, Is there anything else I can do for her? Had I done everything I could for the “love of my life”? Would God sit by her side and let her live out her life on earth or whisper in her ear, take her hand, and guide her to heaven? I had no control over what was happening to her.
Cathey arrived at the hospital room at 8:50am. She’d been detained by her hubby who was coming home from Alaska after a three-month tour with the railroad. She called looking for me. I told her I was downstairs having a smoke but would be up in a few minutes. She said Deb is doing fine. My gut told me different.
Something had changed. There was something in the air which didn’t feel right. I hurried back into the hospital. The elevator took an eternity to reach the third floor. I rushed down the hallway with a sense of urgency and hesitancy. I entered the room; Cathey was standing to the left of the bed. She asked how I was. I never responded. Her labored breathing had stopped. “Cathey, how long has she been like this?” She heard the concern in my voice and saw the look of worry on my face. She moved closer to the bed; put her fingers on Debbie's right wrist checking for a pulse. She wanted to believe she felt one. I laid my hand on her warm chest; it wasn’t moving. The pain in her face was starting to subside. I believe Cathey said she was going to get a nurse. All I could do was rub her chest and stroke her hair. Tears started falling from my eyes.
The nurse came in and slowly moved me away from the bed to check for any sign of life. Without a word she exited the room looking for the doctor on call. He entered with the nurse. They both checked for signs of life.
The doctor slowly turned, looked me in the eye, placed his hand on my right shoulder and said the words with as much compassion as possible, “I’m very sorry. She's gone.” I digested his words and began understanding the depth of our love. My heart didn’t break; it literally shattered into a million pieces. I turned towards Cathey and collapsed into her arms, crying uncontrollably.
Our thirty-year love affair was over.