It was his voice that told me what everyone had been afraid to say; his voice that gave it away before his words even registered.
Holding our daughter close to my face, his voice breaking, he told her, “Kiss your mama goodbye.”
Not goodnight, but goodbye.
So this was it. Too late now to change anything. It was over. Finished. The end.
Well, it certainly explained the look I’d seen in his eyes, the pain on my sisters’ faces. They all knew: had all known except for me. I’d been so blind.
As my daughter’s soft skin pressed against my cheek, I breathed deeply of her baby sweetness and felt my heart breaking at this final kiss.
I tried to catch my husband’s eye, to communicate with this man I had pledged to love till the end. I wanted to reach up and drag his face down to mine but to do so would take more energy than I possessed.
His green eyes – those eyes I had fallen so madly in love with so many years ago – were now awash with tears as he bent to kiss me. When he straightened I felt his reluctance. After all we were one. Had been one. But now that was about to end.
“I love you,” I whispered.
He nodded. Everything had been said already. There was nothing left to say.
Settling our daughter more securely in his arms, he slung the nappy bag over his shoulder, and started toward the door.
“I’ll be back when Katie’s asleep.”
“No,” I managed to rasp. “Get some rest. I’ll see you in the morning.”
He looked ready to protest, then nodded.
“Okay. In the morning.”
One last look and then he was gone.
I closed my eyes, trying not to hear his voice, see his pain, or think about what everyone knew but hadn’t wanted to tell me.
It was finished.
My heart wouldn’t last much longer. It was giving up. The fight was almost over. The end would come soon.
Breathing a prayer, I closed my eyes and tried to sleep.
The rattle of a trolley in the corridor woke me. Trying to ignore what seemed to be an unusual amount of activity just outside my door, I closed my eyes and willed sleep to come. When a nurse shone a torch in my face, I gave up.
“Anna? Are you awake?”
As if anyone could sleep with this racket going on!
Before I could answer she continued.
“A donor heart has become available. We’re going to get you ready for surgery.”
A heart. Emotions surged through my weakened body each vying for attention: elation, fear, joy, anxiety, and something unidentifiable.
“Call Shaun,” I whispered as tears rolled down my cheeks and I savored their saltiness.
“We’ve already rung your husband. He’s on his way.”
I was going to live. I would get to see my baby grow, dance at her wedding, and hold her children. Shaun and I would be able to love together, argue together, live together, and grow old together.
Suddenly pain so intense that it left me gasping for breath tore at my chest. I looked at the nurse in surprise, but she seemed unaware of the pain I was experiencing as she dutifully recorded pulse rate and temperature readings on her charts.
Fear clutched at my heart and I felt the room start to spin. I’m going to die. It’s too late. I’m not going to live to get my heart. I’m going to die. This must be the end.
Then it hit me. Someone had died that I might have a chance to live. Some family out there was grieving just as my family would have been grieving had the heart not become available. Someone had died for me. Someone I didn’t even know.
The tears fell more readily as the pain intensified.
I wasn’t going to die. Not yet. But someone else had and had left me a gift. A gift I didn’t deserve.
The door opened and I lifted my head expecting the doctor. Instead I looked into my husband’s face.
“Anna,” was all he said but there was love and hope and life in his voice.
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