At last, I sent my final breath into the atmosphere and I was free. The smell of antiseptic and the squeak of rubber-soled shoes couldn’t touch me anymore. And the colors of the stars were foreign sparklings in the sky that loved me.
I was a child again, teeming with energy and bright ideas. The world a playground and no longer a prison of tubes and pain killers, lethargy and waiting.
All the thoughts and concerns I’d not been able to voice at the end vanished and I couldn’t remember what the worry was in the first place.
Did you know that the moon does look like swiss cheese, close up?
Giddy with freedom and panoramic vision, I turned sommersaults in rarefied air. Giggling so much that if I’d still been stuck in that meatball of a body another drug for hysteria would have been prescribed.
But something pulled me back like flowers to the sun and I found myself hovering once again, in that familiar chamber of death. My lifeless body a curiosity – how shriveled and pale it had become. I felt no longing to return to it. Oh, but a longing I did feel. She was there. My bright girl, a huddle of tears and regrets. “Oh Daddy!”
“It’s okay, Kate,” I whispered in her ear but she could not hear me.
“What will I do without you?” she clutched the white, cold hand that was once mine.
“You’ll go on. You’ll get out of this hell-hole and see that life is out there, waiting for you, my darling girl.”
The nurse tried to pry Kate loose from the hospital bed and that sad room that tried to be happy with flowers and crayon drawings from the grand kids, family photographs, cards and boxes of chocolates dressed in gold lacy bows but never eaten. “Get away from me! I won’t leave him,” Kate threw off the woman’s hands.
Kate always had a fearsome streak that could wilt the steeliest of wills. The squeaky shoes hightailed it out of the room and enclosed Kate in my living tomb and I ached to release her from her chains. “You have to let go, dear,” I whispered again. “It’s time to let me go.”
Kate lasered a sharp look at my still body.
“That’s right, I’m here,” I said a little louder.
Alert mahogany eyes scanned the room. “Who is that?” she rasped.
She could hear me but would she listen? “It’s me, honey.”
More darting eyes, tears rose and threatened to spill over. “Daddy? Where are you?”
“I am in the ether and next to you. I am free. I’m in the air that you breathe, the sun that comes through the open window, the clouds in the sky. I am everywhere.”
And then Kate smiled and let go of my hand. She drew the sheets up to my chin and tucked me in and then planted a sweet kiss on my forehead. “Good bye, Daddy. I love you. I will always love you.”
And I saw the color rise again to her cheeks and her spine straighten as she stepped to the door, then paused. Kate turned back and looked at the shell that was once me and smiled. “You’re free, at last.”