My heart is swollen with grief, bloated with despair. A year the doctor said. That’s four seasons ... twelve months ... 52 weeks ... 365 days ... 8760 hours to live. I’ve been frivolous with life, scattering minutes like chaff. If only I’d known.
Grey city streets blend with concrete and steel as I leave the doctor’s office. I feel like a hamster in a high-tech cage, isolated, running, spinning but getting nowhere. Mentally, I push the wheel over. This year will be different.
I quit my job, give up my apartment, distribute designer clothes to girl friends. Now I’m free to do as I wish, each hour a valuable gift.
I watch The Bucket List. Not once, not twice, but a dozen times. I’ve done all that stuff – lived the high life, dreamed extravagantly. What is left for me now? I look around the motel room, a sigh oozing from my soul.
The year is passing, each day a nibble from a full moon. I stop moping around and spend a day in the park. The landscape is washed with spring and I inhale the scent of a thousand blooms. Why did I never take time to inspect a flower? I brush fingertips over velvet skins and wonder at powdery baubles of pollen.
6090 hours left to live. My chest tightens by the day and lung capacity diminishes. In spite of that, my appreciation of life is growing. Summer is the season of fullness and I sample its delights. Long lazy days, plump fruits leaking juice, pushing children from the orphanage on swings, hair streaming, laughter flowing.
Autumn creeps up with a wheeze and a cough and the doctor shakes his head. “I wish you’d consider chemo, Jacintha.” I decline the offer and do some calculations. 3271 hours left. Scarf wrapped around my neck, I plunge into mountains of leaves; cascades of gold, amber and crimson whirling wildly.
As life drains from autumn, I seek solace in a church. Not a grey cathedral, but a homely wooden structure. The preacher finds me kneeling at the front and prays for me with fervour, his words refreshing my soul. We talk often after that and he introduces me to God. How incredible that the Creator of the Universe wants to be my friend.
The moon is a sliver now and icy snow covers the land. Breaths are ragged and my lungs raw with pain. I sit by a window in the hospice, watching ice crystals form as hours go by. The world is frozen and beautiful and I beg to be taken outside. The preacher comes and they wrap me in sleeping bags and hot water bottles, lift me into a wheelchair and allow him to push me through the grounds.
The year is dwindling along with my strength. Daffodils thrust golden heads through slushy banks and snow-drops nod in icy winds. 200 hours I estimate, maybe less. The preacher comes again and we talk. “Are you angry that you’re dying?’ he asks.
I pull the bedcovers higher, thinking, wondering. “That’s an odd question,” I reply eventually. “Because this is the first year where I’ve really felt alive.”
The 200 hours stretch to 214 and I thank God for giving me my year. The hospice staff hover and some teens from the orphanage arrive. The preacher comes with an armload of early spring flowers and a couple of my old girlfriends are there.
I smile at them for I can no longer speak. My lungs are blistered and a tube feeds oxygen into my nose. With great effort I lift my hands and loving friends take hold of them, gentle voices whispering encouragement.
The preacher is praying when the fragrance of a thousand blooms fills the air, when fiery autumn leaves twist into a crown and the purity of fresh snow blows across the room. Relief floods my soul and healing air fills my lungs. The Creator of the Universe has come to take me home.
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