It was the day after Thanksgiving and it was time. My daughter and I tearfully exchanged glances as the doctor entered the dimly lit room. We gazed at the two forms, mostly stilled, lying on the couches. Memories of many, many years of comfort given and received were communicated in our shimmering stare.
How many times had I come home from work to find reassurance in a simple touch or greeting? How often were the trying teen years, with rejection and self-loathing oft companions, alleviated through their total acceptance and love?
And now it came down to this…a decision we would never want to make, but must, only accomplished through our combined effort.
“They’ve obviously had a very good, long life.” The doctor spoke having just completed her examination and checking the IVs. “How long have they been blind?”
“He lost his sight a few years ago due to an accident, but she has been blind only a month or so,” my daughter offered. “He adjusted quite well as long as he was here, in our home, as long as Mom didn’t move any furniture”. A small smile curved the corners of her mouth, recalling just such an occasion. Then she sobered. “It’s been much harder on her. She just doesn’t seem to understand what’s happened”, she offered quietly.
I thought back to the last months of increasing debilitation. Loss of hearing, loss of bladder control, loss of appetite. Still, wasn’t there some quality of life left? Some reason to keep on? When is it right to relinquish loved ones to the fate we all must someday share?
“If you’d like, I can wait in another room while you say good-bye”, the doctor spoke into my reverie. A sob caught in my throat as tears freely flowed. “Thank you, we’d appreciate that”, I managed.
We walked over to the couches. I reached down and gathered him in my arms, while my daughter did the same with her. Absently, our hands preformed the familiar caresses, as our minds accepted the inevitable. We’d shared 17 too short years with these two…their entire lives. Now, as I contemplated life without them, I couldn’t imagine how we’d ever lived previous to their coming or what would fill the immense void their absence would create.
Murmuring reassurances of our love, we stroked the familiar bodies. Though unable to see or hear us, they communicated relief as they relaxed in our arms. The doctor had unobtrusively re-entered the room. I looked up and nodded. She injected a clear fluid into each of the IVs. “It won’t be long; they’ll just go to sleep.”
“Good-bye Triscuit”, I cried. “We love you, Biscuit”, my daughter echoed. Two pink tongues licked our hands in response and somehow reassurance.
Their bodies stilled. “It’s over”, the doctor asserted. My husband entered and gathered our loved ones in his arms. As he exited the room, my daughter and I held each other as we wept.
A year later, I wandered into the backyard. The winter wind chilled and I wrapped my coat more tightly around me. Bare branches scraped against the house and the landscape was barren. Then I glanced to the side. Shimmering in the cold, dim, November sunlight was our year old winter camellia. White blooms covered its dark green leaves and a few, dislodged by the wind, settled on the stone marker at its base.
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