The world works in funny ways. I was beginning to regret moving back to York, leaving Bryn Mawr behind. But now, it seems like it was meant to be...
"He's passing," says the nurse quietly, as if not to disturb the moment. "I know," I say. Maybe I didn't say it, maybe I only thought it. I probably nodded. Of course I knew. I've known for weeks, I just haven't been able to come to terms with it. A hot tear slides down my cheek. "I'll leave you alone," he says. I nod my silent thanks. He pulls the curtain around us and goes off to find the RN on duty.
I turn back to him. His breathing has almost completely stopped.
His pale blue eyes pierce the ceiling, looking through me, looking at nothing. Even in death his eyes are the most beautiful eyes I have ever seen. My grandma said the other night that he had wanted to donate his eyes when he died. The thought struck me as odd in that moment, and I cringed but let it pass. If only she could be here beside him now. Over the past few days, she had never left his side. But last night, they sent her home. Of course it had to be the night before.
I clasp his hand, rubbing my fingers over the dark bruises on his paper-like skin. I know that such a simple movement should have given him a harsh pain, but he shows no recognition of the touch. His face remains blank. He doesn't even know that he's not alone. I rub my hand over his tender forehead, through the little remaining hair. I want to say something, but I can find no words.
I had already said that I loved him. I had already said goodbye. At least that night, only a few days before, I knew that he heard me. He couldn't say anything in response, he didn't know my name or even where he was, but he knew my face, and he knew that I was there for him. He had smiled when he saw me.
Not so today. He's almost gone. His eyes may still be open, but nothing registers when I enter his line of sight. Everything is shutting down, and his lungs are the last to give up the fight. One minute he's there, the next he's gone.
Finally, a woman comes in. She checks for a pulse, checks his lips, tries to close his eyes. She asks if there's anything she can do for me. There isn't. She nods and goes out. Another nurse enters. "Oh Sammy," she says, and kisses his forehead ever so gently. Then she reclines his bed and removes the oxygen from his nose. He won't be needing it anymore. She shuts the machine off, making the TV next door sound even louder. She hugs me and gives me a few tissues.
The first nurse joins us quietly. "He was such a great person. Always made us laugh." I nod, remembering years of inside jokes. He looks back at me. "At least he wasn't alone." I continue crying, the tears running silently down my face. They again try to shut his eyes, to no avail. His pale irises continue to stare, unseeing, at the ceiling.
I am still holding his hand when the nurses leave and my grandmother and parents come in. I move to make room for my grandmother's wheelchair. She is crying. I can only imagine what she is going through. All those years together. She is still here, but he is gone.
I hug my mother. She too is crying. Even my dad has to wipe away tears.
"I'll see you again, Sam," my grandmother says. I see in her why people turn to religion. I almost wish I could feel the same way.
My mother eventually decides that it does us no good to stand there with him. Not him, but the body. He is gone. And we are only beginning to understand what that means.
The next few days are rough. So much to arrange, so much pressure. So many people. Even though I have an escape, even though I'm at school, it makes my head spin.
I go with my mother to the funeral director. He smiles as he takes her roll of cash and my credit card. He asks how we're doing. Neither of us answer him.
Everything is over in less than a week. Everyone tries to comfort my grandmother, uncle, and mother, but what good can it do? They all drive away. I don't even know most of them. Maybe I'm better off that way. Thankfully, it was a closed casket. I wouldn't have been able to hold my composure if it had not been.
I follow my mother and teenage brother to the outside of the small building. Where there should be a plaque, a hole gapes like an open mouth. In a way, I feel like this is worse than a hole in the ground. At least grass can grow back overtop. I am sorry I've seen it, but there's no unseeing now. Maybe I will be able to go back later, when the hole is covered. I don't know if I want to see his name on the plaque. I don't know if I would be able to handle seeing those dates carved in stone. Maybe one day, but not today. I ride home with my family.
Like I said, maybe things happen for a reason. I was unhappy at Bryn Mawr, so I came back to York and continued to be unhappy here. I missed Bryn Mawr. But now I don't regret coming home for sophomore year. If I had been so many miles away, he would have died alone. I would have missed a week of school and I would have fallen behind. I would've been even more miserable at school all alone. Having my family close has helped, both me and them. Maybe we're closer because of it. All I know is that I'm glad I was here. I'm glad I got up early on a Saturday morning to see him, to hold his hand in that last hour. I'm glad he wasn't alone, even if he couldn't see me. Maybe he felt me, and knew that it was ok to let go.