She had always clung so tight to the man she called her husband. He had always been by her side. They had known each other since they were very young. Like every day since he first entered his now bed ridden state, the memories flowed in.
He had been there at her sixth birthday party, albeit reluctantly. It’s where they first met. “I don’t want to be here! This is a girl’s party!” He declared, with a boyish pout on his face. She just smiled and took his hand, urging him to join her and the other children to play Pin the Tail on the Donkey. He pulled his hand away, and started walking towards the front yard. “Where are you going?” She called out, following him. As he sat on the front porch swing, he folded his arms. “I’m gonna wait here for Mom and Dad to pick me up,” he huffed. A small tear formed in the corners of her eyes, and the subsequent sniffle made him face her. “What are you crying for?” “Because… I want you to stay.”
Thirteen years from that moment, he had been helping her settle into the apartment her parents set up for her college years. Many things had changed in that time. They had grown into adults, school was behind them, and friendship had turned into young love. They both had agreed to take it slow from the beginning, since their relationship started when they were only 15. The love grew strong over those 4 years, and with each new chapter in life, new steps are made. He finished helping her unpack, and they talked over coffee, until he noticed how late it was. He leaned over to kiss her goodnight, but as he stood up, she grabbed his hand. She gave a knowing, loving look. “Is something wrong?” He asked. As she cupped his face and kissed him, she whispered, “No. But I want you to stay.”
Couples argue, and they were no different. Shortly after their marriage, things put a strain on their relationship. He had taken a new job that cause him to work many late hours. On their one year anniversary, time and the date had completely gotten away from him, and he had neglected to inform her of his late arrival. She sat at the restaurant they frequented, dressed her best from her hair to her shoes and present in hand, only to leave an hour later when he didn’t show up. She stayed up at their apartment until he walked in the door at 12 am. The argument that ensued had been heated and impassioned. Even though he felt guilty and knew he had been working too many long nights, his pride would not let him give in. He argued that a year or two of countless hours on the clock was worth it in the end, since he had his eye on a promotion with a better paycheck. “Was the promotion worth missing a good portion of the first year of our marriage or our first anniversary? I am so sorry that you can’t find time in your busy schedule for me, for us. A relationship, like a fire, will burn out in two years if not tended. I don’t want your money. More of that can be made. I want your time. Because once it’s gone, there is no getting it back.” With that, his pride no longer mattered. Her words burned into him, not just the foreshadowing of what would come, but the love she held for him. The guilt set in. As his tears fell, he looked at her and said, “You must hate me now. You must want me out of your life as soon as possible. I… I’ll leave if you want me to.” Seeing his regret, and knowing she could finally get through to him, she sighed and tiredly smiled. “No, of course not. Those feelings, those words would not exist if I didn’t love you. Of course I want you to stay.”
They only had one child together. After many failed attempts at conception, the pending birth of their little bundle of joy had been extra gleeful, and extra cautious. The bags were packed for the impending hospital trip, and the birth plan was in place, as she wanted a natural birth. However, two months before the predicted due date, she went into labor and was taken to the hospital. After an analysis, a nurse informed them that an emergency Cesarian section was required. “Your husband will have to stay outside of the operating room, I’m afraid,” the nurse said. With the requirement of surgery pushed upon her, and the fear of losing their child racing through her mind, she grabbed his arm, looked up at him, and whispered, “Beg them to reconsider. I can’t do this without you by my side. I want you, I need you to stay.”
A raspy cough brought her out of her daydream. After a blissful, fulfilling life together, she watched her husband lie in his deathbed. They had spent almost 70 years together, and now she knew she would soon have to live her last days without him. He was vaguely aware of his surroundings, and still clung to life, clung to his wife. In a weak voice he asked her, “What… what are you…. thinking about… my dear?” She smiled, took his hand and kissed his forehead. “I was just recollecting all the time we spent together. How you always have been by my side. Even though a few times when you may not should have been.” He smiled for a second, and feebly squeezed her hand. She could see he was fading fast. “I’ll stay… as long as I can… for you.” Tears filled her eyes, and she kissed his forehead again. “You have held on long enough. Heaven knows I don’t want to lose you, but at this point, you are suffering so much. Beyond this world, there is a better place. Please, just wait for me there. For one time in my life… I don’t want you to stay.”