“It is devouring me from within, and I no longer have anything to feed it.”
Quote from a dying friend.
Unlike most monsters, this one was silent, unobtrusive, and when I least expected it, it pounced. I had no warning. No time to prepare. No army to gather for the fight ahead. In truth, there’d be a battle, but the war had already been won. The outcome decided in one foul wave of the universes wand.
Never the less, my parents and I decided to take up the offer of a maybe and perhaps. I fought back with every ounce of determined stubbornness. And with every pain filled breath, I willed the cannibalistic cells which had sprouted from the base of my spine, to die. I prayed and begged. I bargained and promised. But, it only mocked my attempts and continued its savage rampage.
It weaved its wicked tentacles around the bones of my back. Like a weed, the ever-hungry beast forced its way between my vertebrae. It crushed the nerve and drank of my life’s essence. Not satisfied, the mutated cells continued a painful campaign upwards and into my brain. Nibbling at my spleen and liver along the way. Greedily, it dug deep into every sane part of gray matter I owned and rendered me hollow and paralyzed.
I can hear the world, over there in the distance. The rattle of a trolley, the whisper of a nurse — just beyond the fog. What is left of my mind, swims to the surface of a drug drenched ocean and with a pang of regret, I realize I have lived to see another day.
Mom and dad refuse to give up. They’re convinced I’ll win the battle. But I lost months ago. A cold river of morphine rushes through my chemo-singed veins; the result of a diligent syringe driver. The drug works quick to numb my screeching nerve endings – those which are left. I’d sigh if I could, but the tube forcing oxygen into my lungs won’t allow for it.
The chilling narcotic pulls me away from the crumpled-up human I’ve become. I sink gleefully beneath a mist of oblivious relief. Only, this time, it doesn’t stop pulling. I slip… slip… slip, down a long dark corridor.
Elated, I relax, this is it!
My time has finally come.
Faster and faster, it whisks me away. I welcome death with open arms. A great whoosh and my body spits me out. I am born again, but not to life — rather as an echo of it. I look down. I can see my whole body. It is healthy and strong. I look up at the white ceiling which has become a tunnel of white light. I raise my arms toward the beacon, waiting to be drawn into it, but nothing happens. The heart monitor continues to proclaim my life in sharp, poignant beeps.
My body is still alive, but this is not living! My eyes follow a silver chord which connects my spirit to the shell of what I once was.
I lift up my head and shout, “This is not living! Why am I still here?”
A choir of voices, like a thousand chiming bells, echoes across my hospital room.
“They must first let you go.”
I follow the silver chord as it leaves my body a second and third time. The delicate strands, like fine strings of heavenly cobweb find their way to my mom and dad.
My parents sit quietly beside my bed. Mom’s tiny frame, huddled in a red jumper, faces the bed holding my limp body. There are dark rings beneath her eyes. Dad’s thick black mop has thinned and blanched, his skin no longer a healthy olive, but a tepid, spiritless grey.
Their vigil unrelenting. Waiting for the slightest hint of my miraculous recovery. They have sacrificed so much in this battle for my life. Mom even stopped painting.
“The supplies cost too much,” her justification.
I drift past the steel-framed bed which cradles my diminished form and come to stand by my parents. A sure, knowing wisdom unfolds inside me. A final gift granted.
I place a hand on each of their shoulders. The love that lies beneath their flesh reaches out, wraps itself around my fingers and solidifies the wisp which is me. Dad’s head slowly turns. His Adam’s apple bobs up and down. His pale blue eyes stretch and he stumbles out his chair. I can see the question in his eyes.
“No, dad, you’re not hallucinating.”
His hands grope for the bed rails behind him. Staring first at me, then at my dying body in the bed, then back at me.
“What is it, Clyde?” Mum asks, jolted from her silent mourning.
Unable to speak, he points. Mum looks my way and freezes.
“Sweet Jesus!” She clasps her mouth.
Unlike Dad, she slowly stands and pushes the two plastic chairs to the side. Her hand reaches toward me, shaking and unsure as she touches my face — I can feel her!
“Mum.” My voice breaks as her love for me soaks my very being.
Dad, is still unable to utter a sound, but his gaze is brimmed with hope. I reach out to take my parents hands between my own. It’s so good to feel their warmth. I stand a few moments longer allowing the glow of their love to give me strength for the next part of my journey. The hardest thing I’ll ever have to do in this life, must be done now.
“You have to let me go.”
Mom shakes her head; her indigo eyes a waterfall of sadness. I grip their hands tighter.
“It’s over mum,” I nod toward the sickly husk in the bed. “It’s my time.”
With the sense of finality looming, my dad recovers his composure and grabs my shoulders in his large workman’s hands, “We can’t lose you, Rosie! Please, we are nothing without you!” His deep voice trembles in pain. A river of invisible tears stream down my cheeks. I scrape together my courage.
“Daddy, I love you, please let me go! It hurts too much to stay. You and mum will be okay without me, please don’t lose what you have. It’s the love that you share, the love that brought you two together that made me, and that same love which you must always keep. Without it, you will lose me – forever.”
Their shoulders hunch in despair, as they nod reluctantly. We share one last embrace, the three of us. Dad’s arms locked around his two girls for all of time. Mom smiles, lips quivering. Dad, without looking away from me steps back, reaches for the machine which keeps my body breathing and my blood flowing, and flicks the switch…. The finality of his action echoes through our united hearts. They slowly fade from my sight, but are never far from me. I see them sometimes, when I take a moment to glance down. It is good to know they have once again found happiness.
Never fear death, embrace it as the next step in the eternity of the soul.
The last words I ever heard her say.