by Nina Roberta Baker, March, 1995

He sat watching her,
half jealous, half grateful,
as she slept.
"So little time..." he thought

She looked so small and frail now...
the familiar, common things around her
seemed to have grown larger each day,
oversized in proportion to their mistress

The window was open.
An early morning breeze,
heavily laden with the scents of spring,
toyed playfully
with the lace curtain behind his head.

Reaching out to him,
the curtain tickled his ear playfully ,
as if inviting him to laugh.

He didn't notice.

All of his senses were focused on her.

Somehow, he knew.
He arose hours ago
while the full moon still cast,
its' silvery light over the objects in the room.

He wasn't sure,
of all those present and contending in his mind,
which emotion he felt strongest

Love?  (most definitely!) 
Pain? ..... Devastation?
Fear? Loss? Anguish? 
Relief(for her sake)?
(How could he do it?  How could he go on without her?)
Gratitude, for her sake?
(was he capable, he wondered,   of that much unselfishness?)

Morning, began to make its' definition -
between earth and sky
The birds they loved so well,
began their familiar wake up call
outside the bedroom window.

Were they different this morning?
Was he just imagining it?
Or did they indeed, sound a bit hushed ?
Even.... reverent perhaps?
Rather than their usual
joyful, exuberant greeting?

She heard them too.
He knew,
because he saw a tiny movement,
A slight upward pull, there....
at the corner of one side of her mouth...

That dear,
crooked little half-smile
that he knew and loved so well
whenever she wore it.

His look drank hungrily, and thirstily
of that dear, long-beloved face,
It followed a path, from her mouth to her eyes
which just then opened
in time to meet his as they arrived there.

His eyes 
(Oh! how she loved them!) -
were blue,
sometimes gray,
sometimes green,
sometimes all three.

large - soft and dark brown...
always seeming to speak without words.
So expressive they were, of her feelings

She turned at once on her side, 
(it took a great effort)
to fully face him,
from the satin pillow-cradle,
where her head lay,

Eyes still fastened together,
carrying feelings into each others' souls -
A silent, holy communion
of husband and wife

"Good morning" she said aloud,
in that soft, sweet voice
that he had heard so many mornings before
(though not nearly enough..... no, not nearly enough!)

He struggled to respond.
His throat felt too constricted to speak.
It took several attempts before the sound would come,
"I love you.." he said tenderly -
(and in his mind came an echo- `Don't leave me!')

"Come," .....
she beckoned him in a small,
almost-fragile voice,
"lay beside me and hold me?"

She watched him closely,
studying the familiar lines of his face which,
over the years,
she had often traced delicately,
with the caressing touch of her fingertips
and sometimes, her lips.......

As he rose and moved toward her,
she spoke the most intimate of words
she would ever say to him,
and knew she must....
"It won't be long now..."

So many emotions, and so much feeling
was exchanged between them in those few words.
They didn't, after all, really need to be said,
And yet somehow, it seemed right to do so.

Tears flowing freely,
he traversed the small space that lay
between the wing-backed chair and the bed.
To lay together one last time....

Carefully, then....
oh so carefully,
he allowed the weight of his body
to settle down beside her -

He didn't want to make any sudden or drastic change
in her position,
which might cause new, or worsen
the already, ever present-pain she already bore.

How often he had wished
that he could bear it in his own body for her
even if only for a short time,
to give her a respite from it.

Gently, he slipped one arm under her
that she might come to rest,
at that familiar and favored place
nestled at the crook of his arm and shoulder.
`Snuggling together' she called it.

He could feel the whispery touch of her breath
against his neck, as she spoke,
The words falling soft against his skin,
But so heavily upon his heart...

A last promise....
"I'll never be far away, you know.
You have only to call for me ...
I will come and be with you as often
and as long as you want me to be.
I will be with you always."

Dawn, with its' palette of vibrant pastel hues
Painted the sky and pushed away
the last night shadows
from the small room.

He would have... and easily could have -
He wanted to,
carry her out onto the deck to see it,
But the pain was too great now.

They both knew, that the desire was there.
They both knew also,
that it was not to be a part of her farewell to life....
This Day.

Death was too close now,
Too powerful,
too overwhelming,
of the physical part of her....

Before sunset this day,
night would fall again -
making a private appearance in this room.
She would be gathered into it -
and leave him then.

But... as if a comfort afforded,
He could feel her soul growing, expanding,
as her body and hold to life,
diminished with each passing moment.

With an awe...
Inspiring him to an intense yearning of his own,
for the experience which she regretted, somewhat,
but also longed for with such anticipation of release,
and freedom to go on -
To the next experience - Home at last.

He sensed the coming.....
In the quietness of this last embrace,
and these final moments -
The change was imminent now.

Tenderly, his chin pressed against her forehead.
He brushed his fingers against her soft, silken skin
As he drew back a damp, silver curl
which had fallen across her face,
He felt the wetness of a warm trail of tears there
Tears he knew,
were for him.

He wanted to say,
a thousand things to her....
Words crowded themselves,
eagerly gathering inside his brain.

Their souls were already communicating
On a level beyond mere words -
Saying their silent farewells

Clinging, with regret, to the fast parting,
of their physical means of earthly union
But knowing, even as they did so,
It was not the only way
that they could and would meet again.

And then, they did a thing they had often done,
Countless many times before...
Simultaneously, they each drew in a deep breath,
then exhaled - in unison together,
A softly audible - mutual sigh.

It seemed to him,
as he waited,
That she was not going to breathe again!

And then,
In a strange,
softer than usual,
almost ethereal voice,
She spoke -

Half a warning...,
Half a promise.... 

She spoke not again.

Nina Roberta Baker

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