Karla sat on the edge of her husband's hospital bed, massaging his swollen fingers. A yellowed foot stuck out from under the sheet. She covered it and resumed massaging his hand.
"I love you," she said.
She imagined him tightening his fingers.
"It's all right, sweetheart." There was so much more she wanted to say.
Ted had wanted to die in his own bed. After each hospital stay he would say, "When my time comes, please let me die at home."
She had promised. And she tried. God only knows how much she tried. But when he collapsed in the bathroom earlier in the morning, she panicked and called 911. She couldn't pick him up, although his once two-hundred-pound frame now weighed nearly half that.
She tried not remembering the sound he made falling off the commode.
He had been getting weaker and they decided no more dialysis, no more emergency resuscitation. Ted had fought the cancer for over two years, but it continued to spread. The chemotherapy was terrible, yet he managed. He even kept his sense of humor. At the hospital, he became friendly with a man who was undergoing the same treatment. Ted called him his "chemosabe."
Karla understood that Ted could not last much longer. Understanding was one thing; watching him die another.
She had begged the emergency medical people to carry him to his own bed, but they said they had to take him to the hospital. She didn't have the energy to argue. The truth is she felt relieved.
She tried explaining this to Ted in the back of the ambulance, to apologize for breaking her promise. She thought he nodded as if he understood.
At the hospital, she showed everyone concerned his Living Will and the Do Not Resuscitate order. They gave her papers to sign and took him to a separate wing of the hospital for terminal patients.
"It won't be long now," the doctor had said after examining him.
All she could do was hold her husband's hand and hope he understood.
After teaching writing and literature in college for twenty-five years, Wayne Scheer retired to follow his own advice and write. He's been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and a Best of the Net. His work has appeared in The Christian Science Monitor, Notre Dame Magazine, The Pedestal, Pindeldyboz, Eclectica Magazine, flashquake, Flash Me Magazine and Apple Valley Review, among others. Wayne lives in Atlanta with his wife and can be contacted at wvscheer[at]aol.com