Marilyn’s cancer had sped through her body. The night of her wedding, it attacked her lungs. Soon its metastasizing cells had colonized her liver, and were planting their ugly flag of territorial possession in her brain.
Douglas wept when he wasn’t with her. His love for Marilyn, always a warm glow in his heart, turned to a raging fire as her health and life slipped away. When he was with her, he smiled, laughed, teased, cajoled, and took care. He wiped her brow, brushed her hair, bathed her, fetched ice water or peppermint tea. When she decided no further treatment would help extend the quality of her life, he sat with her as the nurse replaced the chemo line with plain saline.
He did not cry in front of Marilyn, ever. When the emotions overwhelmed him, he made up an excuse to step outside her hospital room. Once a week or so, he slept in his own bed, in Marilyn’s house, emptier every day of her spirit. Those nights, when everyone else thought he was finally getting some rest, were the most restless of all. He could sleep in an uncomfortable chair in her hospital room. He thrashed with wakefulness in the bed with her covers and pillows all around, but not her.
When the time came, he organized the celebration of her life with grace and ease. He’d said his farewells to her in plenty of time. He’d been in the room when her soul left her body. He did not begrudge Leo being the first to notice. He did not cry then, either, not until he had a moment alone with her physical body.
Then, Douglas wept as fiercely as he could ever remember weeping. He could not imagine his life going forward, though he knew it would. He wept hot tears that wetted the thin sheet over the love of his life.
His tears lasted a few minutes, and then he kissed her lips, tucked her covers around her, turned his back on her earthly remains, and walked out the door into the rest of a life he could not imagine, but knew would go on.