I watched her sweet chocolate hair swing in the moonlight. Her face was perfect, her eyes were ice blue and burned with intensity like fire. She laughed with me, she pushed me gently on the shoulder. I hadn’t really been listening, I didn’t know what she was talking about. All I could see was how pretty she was right there. In that moment, in that space in time. I captured the moment, and saved it in my head, but it was all but a fleeting memory much too soon.
“Moments pass, Aaron.” The fire behind her ice-blue eyes had gone, her chocolate hair too, and all that was left was a frail form of her–bald, pale, lifeless and sad. She smiled, but it was weak and dishonest. The doctors called her a fighter, but really all that was happening was that she was dying. There was no fighting going on here. And I couldn’t take it. “We need to save them. Aaron, there is no such thing as a sad moment. But a sad perspective is something we see all too often.” I would have answered her, but I couldn’t. There was nothing to say, because she was wrong, so wrong. This, right here, was a sad moment. The moments for the next three months would be sad, and then, somewhere at the end of three months, she would die and it would be the saddest moment of my entire life. And there was nothing that I could do to stop it. Helplessness and sadness confused my every waking moment. I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t eat or sleep or breathe without an intense, stabbing pain that wasn’t anything close to physical. Every time I stood, or drank, or talked, a stabbing pain shot through my heart like someone had shoved their fist inside of my ribcage and was trying to tear out my heart. The doctors told me that all of this was normal, but I didn’t believe that.
“I want to… I want to save you,” I managed. “I want you to come back.” I am a selfish human being. Complaining to my wife with cancer that her cancer was inconveniencing me.
“You can’t, hun,” she remarked. And we sat, by the bedside, holding hands for hours, like we did yesterday and the day before and the day before. This was not a happy moment. There wasn’t any such thing as a happy moment. Not anymore.
When I woke up it was dark, the moonlight showed through the trees outside of the hospital window. Again I woke up, again I hoped that this was all a dream, and I looked down. And it wasn’t. And I was scared and frightened and confused and–
I looked around and found one of the doctors tapping me on the shoulder. She was short, dark hair and dark eyes, smiling at me. Who would smile at a time like this? “Yeah, Judy, hi.” Of course I knew the doctors at this hospital, I’d only spent the last three months coming and going to visit my wife.
“I found something.”
“Experimental drug trials? Like the ones you were talking about. I found something that might work. Your wife has stage four thymoma, which metastasized. She doesn’t have very long. However, we think that we might be able to give her a new drug… It sounds kind of dangerous, and it is, but your wife… I mean, she’s not in a good state anyways, and she’s deteriorating quickly. Some of the side effects of this drug can be dangerous, but I know you’ll–”
“Do whatever it takes,” I said.
“That. So I’ll need you to sign…” she handed me exactly eleven pieces of paper clipped to a clip board and I signed every last one of them. Then Judy left and I hugged my wife. “Good-bye, sweetheart,” I whispered, and then kissed her on the head. She stirred a bit, but I was out the door in a flash, tears streaming out of my eyes. I had seen experimental drug trials work in the movies, and I had thought that maybe there was one last chance to bring her back. I tried not to get my hopes up, but I couldn’t help myself as I walked home. I smiled for the first time in months.
Exactly one month later I attended her funeral. Exactly one month later I sobbed into a tissue as my mother-in-law hugged me. My wifes fate was worse than death. She had died at the inattentive, clueless hands of her own husband. She had died the day I signed that paper.