by Cecily Markham
I walk into the room to check on her, to see if the pain medication helped. I am a young nurse. My patient is lying in the bed by the window. The room is honey-like from the sun pouring in. My patient’s husband is lying in the bed bedside her. He is talking to her, bringing memories into the small, intimate space they share, celebrating their life together. In this moment a truth is illuminated for me, a truth about pain and love in our most vulnerable hour.
The Wishing Stone
He wanted to make the day timeless. To create it that way. He dreamed of rain with her. Dreamed of so much rain. He wanted her words; he wanted her to stay; he wanted her words. The way she didn’t speak, the way she spoke with words that would fall upon him, and move through him like a riderless horse on sun-washed plains, a beautiful ocean storm he wanted to be a part of, an indecisive wind that would howl and howl and pull back and take with it some part of him. He didn’t want to know where he was with her now or where she was, only memory, love, this holding her pale slender arms—timeless. If he could only make the shivers go away, he thought, to make her warm again.
He reminded her of mountains they had hiked and little creeks they’d found and waterfalls with June sunbows and the long blue-green hills they had climbed on the way to the sun. He thought of the day they’d made love in the river before Sarah was born, and afterwards found a midnight-blue marbled stone along the bank that was smooth as still pond water. He remembered how they rubbed it together and made a wish that the stone would remain there, holding the pulses of their fingertips inside, and that the river would always know where they were. The river would always know how to find them.
He spoke of all their children, spoke their names out loud—Sarah, Jason, and Patrick—so that the thinning air, so that time if there was any time, would not forget. He carried her with his own words through their gardens of foxgloves, azaleas, and English roses, and he reminded her how the poplar trees along the drive to their house sway and sing with unfettered music, remembrance, and waiting. Because he wanted to enter her wholly, past her human edge, all her river to sea, all her sky to sky to her invisible self, he kept holding her, lying next to her in the narrowing afternoon light that was losing its day—penetrating through him, beyond courage, beyond his strength and trembling, what is marrow and sacred—past all that is hardly human.
She died that day lying next to him, slipping away on violet evening shadows, and some beginning stars, who whispered back to him, echoed to him soft as her silk blouses, soft as her rains, my song, my time was with you.